03/28/2016 2:36PM

Brennan continues to have magic touch with youngsters


Three of the Kentucky Derby’s most imposing prospects – the champion Nyquist, Rebel Stakes winner Cupid, and Louisiana Derby winner Gun Runner – are graduates of Niall Brennan’s training program.

Sound familiar?

The Ocala, Fla., horseman was thought to have reached a career high-water mark in 2013 with a trio of alumni in the Derby gate. Winner Orb and third-place Revolutionary gave Brennan an immediate spike in his résumé, while pacesetter and 12th-place finisher Palace Malice went on to win the Belmont Stakes.

While plenty remains to be shaken out, Brennan said it was gratifying to once again have a strong honor roll heading into this year’s final preps.

“It’s exciting,” Brennan said. “I think it’s still early stages from the point of view of the Triple Crown. They’ve already established that they’re good horses for sure, and that’s nice in itself. It’s flattering that we’ve been able to have so many nice horses around our program. It’s satisfying because there’s no question that’s really what it’s all about.”

Brennan is perhaps best known as one of the 2-year-old auction market’s most prominent consignors and pinhookers. Palace Malice and Revolutionary were both graduates of his consignment in 2012, with the former bringing $200,000 at the Keeneland April sale of 2-year-olds in training and the latter going for $235,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. March sale of 2-year-olds in training.

Nyquist, the champion 2-year-old of last year and a top contender in Saturday’s Grade 1 Florida Derby, leads the 2015 class of juvenile sale graduates. The first-crop son of Uncle Mo sold to Dennis O’Neill as agent for Reddam Racing for $400,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Florida select sale of 2-year-olds in training.

Brennan was part of the partnership that bought Nyquist for $230,000 out of the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale to be resold. The eventual Eclipse Award winner made an immediate impression on the group.

“At that stage, I was really liking the Uncle Mos as a group,” Brennan said. “There were several of them that I liked, and I loved the consistency as a sire. They were all the same color, same kind of shape, and had a really nice presence about them.

“I saw what happened to be Nyquist, and I thought, ‘Damn, this is the best one yet.’ ”

While a leader in the auction arena, Brennan also has been entrusted with horses from some of the industry’s prominent yearling end users and breed-to-race operations. Chief among them is Derby winner Orb, whom Brennan developed for owners and breeders Stuart Janney III and Phipps Stable.

Cupid added prestige to Brennan’s list of alumni developed for clients in the Rebel and is poised to add even more in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby on April 16.

The Tapit colt arrived at his stable in the fall of 2014, shortly after being purchased for $900,000 by the Coolmore partnership at the Keeneland September sale.

Brennan described Cupid as a laid-back youngster during his time in Ocala, but by the time he was sent to trainer Bob Baffert’s barn in California, his maturity had taken a massive leap forward.

“You could see a huge change in him this time last year,” Brennan said. “He just started growing into a man, and the light went on for him in his training. He really started loving the training, and he progressed very nicely to the point that everything was right to send him on out to Bob.”

Gun Runner, a son of Candy Ride, arrived at Brennan’s farm in January 2015 for sales prep after starting out at nearby Bridlewood Farm. He was ultimately kept out of the auction ring and runs for the partnership of Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm.

“He was a very athletic colt, and he came forward quickly, but he was still an immature colt to look at him,” Brennan said. “We didn’t try to rush him too much. The ability was there. He had raw talent, but he was still very young in his mind at that time. [Trainer] Steve [Asmussen] saw the talent and potential that was there and took him on and took it easy on him for the summer to let him catch up and develop.”