02/10/2016 10:56AM

Jerardi: Nyquist's numbers say it could be a rocky season

Benoit & Associates
Nyquist, who makes his 3-year-old debut Monday in the San Vicente at Santa Anita, put together a Beyer series of 84-89-82-79-89 at 2.

As the unbeaten Nyquist – with the weakest set of Beyer Speed Figures for a 2-year-old champion in memory – gets set for his 3-year-old debut in the San Vicente Stakes on Monday at Santa Anita, I took a look back at recent history to check out accomplished 2-year-olds with similar profiles to see how they did as 3-year-olds. Not to spoil the fun, but the short answer is not very well.

Nyquist ran five times last year, once in a maiden race, once in a Grade 2, and three times in Grade 1 races, including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. The colt was 7-1 in his debut and 9-2 in the Breeders’ Cup. He was favored in his other three starts, odds-on twice. Three times the colt won by less than a length. His Beyers were 84, 89, 82, 79, and 89.

If you judged Nyquist just by how he ran in the Breeders’ Cup and not how slowly he ran, you would have to be impressed. He overcame a very difficult trip and never stopped trying. There is something to be said for that. There is also something to be said about a colt who could not hit 90 on the Beyer scale. And if history is the guide, it is not going to be positive in 2016.

Over the last 20 years, there are four clear comparisons, the most obvious being Shanghai Bobby in 2012 and 2013. The colt was an unbeaten 2-year-old champion who raced five times, with a Grade 2 win and two Grade 1 wins, including the BC Juvenile. Shanghai Bobby’s 2-year-old Beyers were 68, 93, 88, 94, and 82 in the BC Juvenile, the last a clear tip-off that 2013 was going to be nothing like 2012.

Shanghai Bobby made his 3-year-old debut in the Holy Bull Stakes and ran well, getting a 100 Beyer when second to Itsmyluckyday. He tired badly in the Florida Derby, finishing fifth behind Orb and getting an 80. He won a small stakes that fall with a 92 and never ran again.

Hansen was unbeaten in three starts as a 2-year-old in 2011. He won his maiden, an ungraded stakes, and the BC Juvenile with Beyers of 89, 80, and 94.

Hansen’s 3-year-old season was less than perfect. He got a 96 Beyer when second in the Holy Bull, a 95 in winning the Gotham Stakes, a 96 when second in the Blue Grass Stakes, an 86 when ninth behind I’ll Have Another in the Kentucky Derby, a 97 when he blew away the field in the Iowa Derby, and a 90 in his finale, a fourth in the West Virginia Derby.

By the numbers, Hansen never really moved forward from his best 2-year-old form, which was never that great to begin with. He was odds-on four times in 2012, winning two and losing two. He also lost at 6-5.

Action This Day was kind of a freak BC Juvenile winner in 2003 with a 92 Beyer after posting a 74 and a 79 in his first two starts. The horse ran four times on dirt in 2004 without winning. His Beyers were 98, 84, 89, and 87 when sixth at 43-1 behind Smarty Jones in the Derby.

Action This Day ran back in December 2004 on grass and was nowhere. His career ended early in 2005 with an eighth-place finish in the San Fernando Stakes, where he got an 80.

My personal favorite is Answer Lively, the 1998 BC Juvenile winner. I made a big bet on the colt, and he got me started on a huge day that culminated with Da Hoss winning the BC Mile at 11-1. Jerry Bailey gave Answer Lively a perfect trip, sitting third, in the clear, behind two dueling leaders. Answer Lively was two lengths clear at the eighth pole and barely held on to win the race with a 97 Beyer after a series of 97, 100, and 91.

Andrew Beyer and I turned to each other after the race in the old Churchill Downs press box and said in unison that this horse will never win another race. We cashed our tickets and vowed to start betting against.

Answer Lively was 0 for 7 in 1999. To be fair, the colt was not horrible, but he had peaked in the Breeders’ Cup, and we knew it.

Answer Lively began 1999 as the 1-2 favorite in the Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds. He was seventh with a 71 Beyer. He actually hit triple digits three times that year, with a 103 Beyer when second in the Louisiana Derby, a 100 when seventh behind Charismatic in the Kentucky Derby, and a 100 when second in the Remington Park Derby. Others had gotten faster, and Answer Lively simply could not keep up, with a 3-year-old series of 71, 95, 103, 85, 100, 100, and 82 when he was sixth in the Super Derby, his final race.

Nyquist certainly could be the exception to this recent history, but given the prices the champ will be in his first start or two, I certainly wouldn’t bet on it. In fact, I may very well be betting against it.