12/02/2015 11:23AM

Road to the Derby: FrontRunner Stakes

Shigeki Kikkawa
Nyquist won the Grade 1 Frontrunner despite encountering early trouble.

Grade 1, $300,750 FrontRunner Stakes; 1 1/16 miles; Santa Anita; Sept. 26, 2015
(10 Derby qualifying points for a win, 4 for second, 2 for third, 1 for fourth)

Winner: Nyquist (Sire:Uncle Mo)
Trainer: Doug O’Neill
Jockey: Mario Gutierrez
Owner: Reddam Racing LLC
Beyer Speed Figure: 79

NYQUIST remained unbeaten with this hard-fought victory, holding off arch-rival SWIPE through a lengthy stretch drive. The Beyer Figure was disappointing, but Nyquist and Swipe were coming back just 19 days after running one-two in the Del Mar Futurity. So was the quick turnaround to blame, or are they regressing? The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile will provide the answer.

Nyquist was outfooted by GO LONG into the first turn, was floated out by Go Long near the seven-eighth’s pole and bumped into MT VEEDER, then settled into second, behind Go Long. Nyquist moved for the lead on the far turn, passing Go Long while immediately challenged by Mt Veeder. He turned back Mt Veeder in upper stretch, then faced a fresh bid from Swipe, who tried to rally along the rail. Swipe got closest just inside the sixteenth pole, but Nyquist staved him off for a game, though low-fig, victory.

Swipe, who finished second to Nyquist for the third straight time, rated in mid-pack, outside and in the clear, heading around the first turn. He moved closer while between horses and appeared to get a bit rank nearing the half-mile pole, remained between horses and stuck without room to maneuver on the far turn, dived to an opening along the rail in upper stretch, appeared to get within a neck of Nyquist in the final sixteenth, but never did get by while finishing well clear of the rest of the field.

HOLLYWOOD DON, who finished third, was rated in sixth heading into the first turn, rallied three paths wide on the far turn while just outside of Swipe and inside RARE CANDY, was late to change leads in upper stretch, and was outrun through the lane by the top two.

Rare Candy, who was fourth, had no early speed and was seventh into the first turn, steadily advanced outside horses down the backstretch and wound up four paths wide on the far turn, moved in tandem with Hollywood Don outside Swipe on the turn, was outrun by Hollywood Don in upper stretch, gained on Hollywood Don in the late stages, but was no match for Nyquist and Swipe.

BLAMEITONTHELAW, who finished fifth, wound up in a gorgeous spot into the first turn – in fourth, on the rail, behind the three leaders. He moved up along the rail down the backstretch and was third, just a half-length behind Nyquist, with a half-mile to go. But he was outrun on the far turn and through the lane, wasting a gorgeous trip.

Mt Veeder, who was sixth, showed good speed from his outside draw to be part of a three-way duel into the first turn, took a bump from Nyquist approaching the seven-furlong pole, attended the pace outside Go Long and Nyquist while under restraint into the backstretch, stayed three paths wide into and around the far turn, got within a head of Nyquist with a quarter-mile to go, then faded through the lane.

Go Long, who was seventh, was sent along from his rail draw to take the early lead, tried to drift out a bit around the first turn, maintained the lead to the far turn, was asked aggressively with five-sixteenths of a mile to go, but readily yielded.

ON FIRE, who was last of eight, trailed throughout and never made a bid in a thoroughly dull effort.