10/31/2015 4:44PM

Nyquist silences doubters in Breeders' Cup Juvenile

Emily Shields
Nyquist, ridden by Mario Gutierrez, wins the Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Saturday to remain unbeaten.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Despite his unbeaten record, which included two Grade 1 victories, there were doubts surrounding Nyquist entering Saturday’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland.

His descending Beyer Speed Figures had some concerned that he was feeling the effects of a busy summer campaign. Heck, even Kent Desormeaux, the trainer of Swipe, who had run second to Nyquist on three straight occasions, thought others – including his own Exaggerator – were better.

But all the doubters were proven wrong when Nyquist, despite having to come from farther off the pace than he had ever been, rallied to win the $2 million Juvenile by a half-length over Swipe. It was 2 1/4 lengths farther back to Brody’s Cause in third. Exaggerator was fourth, followed by Cocked and Loaded, Riker, Greenpointcrusader – the 7-2 favorite – Conquest Big E, Waterloo Bridge, Siding Spring, Rated R Superstar, Unbridled Outlaw, Isotherm, and Ralis.

Nyquist, a son of 2010 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Uncle Mo, completed a 5-for-5 season that undoubtedly will earn him an Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male.

“He took a lot of abuse from handicappers for his descending Beyer Speed Figures coming into the race. I thought, ‘Is it really a criticism that you’re not winning by enough?’ ” said Paul Reddam, the owner of Nyquist.

In winning his first four starts, Nyquist was never farther back than 1 1/2 lengths at any point of call. On Saturday, after getting bumped by Swipe at the start, Nyquist was eighth, though only about five lengths back but four to five wide under Mario Gutierrez.

“Midrace, I thought, ‘Well, they’re not machines. Even great horses every now and then don’t fire,’ ” said Doug O’Neill, the trainer of Nyquist. “I thought he wasn’t firing. When Mario called on him, he sure did.”

Riker, who was part of the pace, and Cocked and Loaded came into the stretch first and second after six furlongs in 1:12.14. But Gutierrez had Nyquist three wide and closing in. He took the lead with a furlong remaining and held off a late run by Swipe, 29-1, as those two finished first and second for the fourth straight race.

Nyquist covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.79 and returned $11.40 as the co-second choice along with Exaggerator.

Gutierrez thought he would be closer to the pace early in the race but was hung out wide when so many horses were sent to the front by their riders.

“That’s the beauty when you ride a good horse – there’s always time to adapt,” Gutierrez said. “Relax, wait for everybody to get their positions, tried saving a little bit of ground in the backstretch; from that point on, it was wait to push the button to go home.”

Desormeaux came into the race thinking that Exaggerator was the better of his two horses and thought the East Coast-based juveniles in general were better.

“I insulted Nyquist and Swipe because I thought they were lacking the quality of the East Coast,” Desormeaux said. “Obviously, I was wrong – not only wrong about Nyquist but wrong about the East Coast prowess. We wanted to win, but it was fun.”

Victor Espinoza, the jockey of Swipe, said the short stretch for the Juvenile, which ended at the first finish wire, compromised his horse’s chances.

“The wire is so short; He’s a big horse. I can’t ride him as hard as I want on the turn,” Espinoza said. “So, I had to give him a chance to get into his stride. Other than that, he ran an unbelievable race.”

Desormeaux said he had Exaggerator too sharp, and that’s why he was rank early on. Still, he only lost by three lengths.

“He’s a better horse than that,” Desormeaux said.

Greenpointcrusader was sent off as the slight favorite coming off a sensational victory in the Grade 1 Champagne. In the Juvenile, jockey Joe Bravo said his horse never really leveled off until late in the race.

“He’s a little funny with horses around him, and with there being 14 in there, there’s going to be horses around him,” Bravo said. “He’s a very good horse; he just needs a chance.”