Shortly after undefeated juvenile champion Nyquist (Breeders’ Cup Photo, above, winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile) had scorched the seven furlongs of the G2 San Vicente at Santa Anita in 1:20.71 on Monday, questions and comments — all legitimate, given his pedigree — surfaced on Twitter about his ability to get the Derby distance.
Nyquist, bred by Summerhill Farm in Kentucky, is from the first crop of champion 2-year-old Uncle Mo (photo below by Frances J. Karon), who faced similar questions as he prepared for the classics. A more dominant juvenile champion than his son, Uncle Mo was gingerly handled as he began his sophomore campaign, and some physical issues cut short his attempt at the Derby after a third-place finish in the G1 Wood Memorial at 9F.
Uncle Mo’s sire, Indian Charlie, was undefeated in four starts, including a win in the G1 Santa Anita Derby at 9F heading into the Derby, where he finished third and never raced again. It’s a sire line that’s been plagued with some unsoundness, which is usually the tradeoff for brilliance.
Speed and early maturity were notable characteristics of Indian Charlie and Uncle Mo, and from the results of last year and the San Vicente they are a part of Nyquist’s profile as well. Nyquist’s most recent performance was reminiscent of sprinter The Factor’s front-running 1:20.34 in the 2011 edition of the San Vicente, and if he doesn’t cut it as a classic horse he’s got a fall back as a sprinter. That much is obvious.
But is there more? Nyquist is a gritty fighter, and at six for six, he has kept his undefeated streak longer than those of his sire and grandsire, both of whom lost in their fifth starts. Because of this, he must get the benefit of some doubts as a classics contender until he proves otherwise. Plus, Uncle Mo — the leading first-crop sire of 2015 — so far is showing signs of becoming an elite stallion, and when that happens, surprising things can occur because the infusion of quality and class from these types is so great that it compensates limitations elsewhere in pedigrees. Tapit is an example. He got champion 2-year-old Hansen from a white-type sprinting mare who won her debut in a $5,000 maiden claimer — a mind-boggling achievement.
But — and it’s a big BUT — Nyquist doesn’t appear to have a reservoir of stamina to draw from his dam’s immediate family, either, just as Hansen didn’t, though his is a family with far more class and depth than Hansen’s.
Like Hansen’s Storm Cat-line dam, Nyquist’s dam, Seeking Gabrielle, is also a Storm Cat-line mare, but from a speedier branch. She was was a claimer as well. By the Storm Cat sprinter Forestry from Seeking Regina, by Seeking the Gold, Seeking Gabrielle was bred by Southern Equine Stables, LLC, and raced initially for her breeder, winning a $20,000 maiden claimer at 6F at Louisiana Downs in her second start as a 3-year-old in 2010. It was the only race she would win from seven starts, and she earned a total of only $7,935. She was claimed for $12,500 in her fourth start, and in January of 2011 she was sent through the Keeneland mixed sale where she turned a tidy profit, bringing $45,000.
Like her sire Forestry, who was best at 7F, Seeking Gabrielle’s dam, Seeking Regina, was a G2 winner at 6.5F, and at age 2, too. In turn, Seeking Regina’s best runner, the Storm Cat mare Seeking the Sky, was G3 winner at 6F.
Seeking Regina produced three other stakes-placed horses, two by stamina influence A.P. Indy and one by Capote, but each of them gravitated to speed as well. Seeking It All, by A.P. Indy, was placed in a G1 and G2 at age 2 at 7F and 6F, respectively; Seeking the Glory, also by A.P. Indy, was stakes-placed at 6.5F; and Seeking the Money, by Capote, was placed in a G2 at 6F at 2.
Seeking Regina’s penchant for producing speed and some early maturity, even when bred to a horse like A.P. Indy, was passed on to her daughter Seeking the Sky. When bred to the Pleasant Colony horse Pleasant Tap, a multiple G1 winner at 10F, Seeking the Sky produced sprinter-miler Sahara Sky, winner of the G1 Metropolitan Handicap at a mile and a Graded winner in sprints. She also produced the 5.5F turf black type winner Animal Style.
Seeking Regina’s daughter Seeking Gabrielle has now produced Nyquist, a G1 winner at 8.5F at age 2, and Nyquist has won a G1 race at a farther distance than any of the other black type horses in the first two dams — which gets back to the class Uncle Mo must be transmitting. But how far can Uncle Mo take Nyquist? Tapit, who eventually got a Belmont Stakes winner from a Pleasant Colony mare, was only able to take Hansen as far as 8.5F, despite the class he imparted to him.
Nyquist’s broodmare sire Forestry won the G1 King’s Bishop at 7F, the G2 Dwyer at 8.5F, and was placed in the G1 Haskell at 9F. But Forestry tends to shorten pedigrees consistently, except in certain instances when he’s combined with the Fappiano/Unbridled line, from which he got G1 Preakness winner Shackleford (Unbridled; 9.5F), G2 winner Etched (Unbridled’s Song; 9F), and G3 winner Congressionalhonor (Quiet American; 9F) as a sire; and G3 winner Divine Oath (Broken Vow; 12F) as a broodmare sire. But even as a broodmare sire, he shortened Empire Maker with the G2 winner Magical Feeling (7F), Bernardini with the G3 winner Sassicaia (6F), and Kitten’s Joy with G1 winner Bobby’s Kitten (6.5F).
Can Nyquist stay the 10F of the Derby on pedigree? Last year there were some questions surrounding American Pharoah’s sprint-oriented immediate family and broodmare sire Yankee Gentleman, another Storm Cat sprinter. But American Pharoah was sired by the Derby runner-up Pioneerof the Nile, an Unbridled-line horse through Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker. Nyquist’s sire doesn’t have that type of stamina behind him (though grandsire Indian Charlie was third in the Derby), and neither does Nyquist’s dam and her sire. Nyquist, therefore, will need as much class as he can get from Uncle Mo to go along with the moxie he has, because his closeup pedigree isn’t built for 10F.