ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 12, 2016)–Reddam Racing’s undefeated Eclipse Champion Nyquist, idle since winning the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Oct. 31, heads a field of six sophomores in Santa Anita’s Grade II, $200,000 San Vicente Stakes at seven furlongs on Monday.
Trained by Doug O’Neill and ridden by Mario Gutierrez in all five of his wins, the Kentucky-bred colt by Uncle Mo, who has also posted victories in the Grade II Best Pal Stakes, Grade I Del Mar Futurity and Grade I FrontRunner Stakes, will attempt to provide the triumvirate of J. Paul Reddam, O’Neill and Gutierrez with a measure of déjà vu, as they also teamed for victory in the 2012 Santa Anita and Kentucky Derbies with I’ll Have Another.
While recent stakes wins by top Derby prospects Mohaymen and Mor Spirit have generated considerable early buzz among industry observers, O’Neill remained upbeat this morning regarding Nyquist’s prospects.
“We’re just eager to see him compete at a high level on Monday and let that speak for itself,” he said. “That’s what I love about this game, though, everyone has an opinion…Whenever you read something negative about your own horses, it’s like somebody saying something about your family members…But if he runs a big race Monday, we can write our own story.”
A winner going seven furlongs in the Del Mar Futurity three starts back on Sept. 7, Nyquist will be shortening up off a pair of wins at a mile and a sixteenth, in both the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Santa Anita’s FrontRunner Stakes Sept. 26. His career earnings of $1,613,600 dwarf those of the rest of the San Vicente field.
Big Chief Racing’s Exaggerator, idle since winning the Grade III, 1 1/16 miles Delta Jackpot over a muddy strip on Nov. 21, was a close fourth, beaten three lengths, by Nyquist in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and will unquestionably be the second choice in the San Vicente wagering. Trained by Keith Desormeaux, the Kentucky-bred colt by Curlin demonstrated a stalking style in winning the Grade II, 6 ½ furlong Saratoga Special four starts back on Aug. 16 and could likely employ similar tactics off the bench.
A winner of three out of his six starts, he’ll be ridden by Desormeaux’s Hall of Fame brother, Kent, for the fourth consecutive time. Exaggerator has a solid work tab for his return that includes a bullet five furlong move in 58.20 here on Feb. 2. A well beaten fifth by Nyquist in his maiden special weight debut at Santa Anita June 5, he has earnings of $983,120.
Trainer Wesley Ward will be represented by Florida-bred Sheikh of Sheikhs, comes off a third place finish in the Grade III, six furlong Hutcheson Stakes at Gulfstream on Jan 2. Owned by Abdullah Saeed Almaddah, Sheikh of Sheikhs, who has a pair of sprint victories from four starts, will be making his Southern California debut. A bay colt by Discreetly Mine, he’s shown good speed in both of his wins.
El Charro is another shipping in from south Florida to make his Southern California debut in the San Vicente. A Florida-bred colt by Put It Back, El Charro, who was purchased privately following a second place finish in a one mile minor stakes at Gulfstream Park Jan. 2, has two wins from six starts and will be making his first start for trainer David Jacobson. He is owned by Head of Plains Partners, LLC and Jacobson.
A 3 ¾ length first-out maiden winner going 5 ½ furlongs Jan. 9, Denman’s Call is Doug O’Neill’s “Avis” choice in the San Vicente. A Kentucky-bred gelding by Northern Afleet, Denman’s Call was bred by W C Racing, Milt Gilman and Mark Verge. He’s owned by Gilman Racing, Westside Rentals.com and W.C. Racing, Inc.
The complete field for the Grade II San Vicente, to be run as the fifth on a nine-race card Monday, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Nyquist, Mario Gutierrez, 124; Electrifying, Tyler Baze, 120; El Charro, Joe Talamo, 120; Denman’s Call, Flavien Prat, 120; Exaggerator, Kent Desormeaux, 122, and Sheikh of Sheikhs, Rafael Bejarano, 120.
First post time on Monday is at 12:30 p.m. Admission gates open at 10:30 a.m.