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Nyquist wins Del Mar’s 2-year-old championship race

Nyquist and jockey Mario Gutierrez win the Grade I, $300,000 Del Mar Futurity.

Nyquist and jockey Mario Gutierrez win the Grade I, $300,000 Del Mar Futurity.

(Benoit Photo)

In three of the last four years, California horse racing has dominated the Triple Crown series, with I’ll Have Another and California Chrome starting it, followed by Triple Crown winner American Pharoah’s sweep of the classics this year.

For American Pharoah, it started with his Del Mar Futurity victory last year, and after Nyquist’s 3¾-length victory in Del Mar’s 2-year-old championship race Monday, trainer Doug O’Neill, who trained I’ll Have Another for J. Paul Reddam, hopes to take that same course with the son of Uncle Mo, again for Reddam. Steve Rothblum of O’Neill’s barn called Nyquist “a first-Saturday-in-May” horse after he won the Best Pal Stakes. Now he has the Futurity victory, too.

“This horse [Nyquist] has all the tools, mentally and physically, and if he stays injury-free, he’s that kind of colt for sure,” O’Neill said as he hustled to the paddock to saddle two horses for the ninth race. O’Neill, who earlier in the meeting won five races in one day, took three on the final day, and he and Reddam’s main jockey, Mario Gutierrez, also closed out with three victories. Reddam led all owners with 13 victories for the meeting.

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer took the training title with 22 victories, and jockey Rafael Bejarano won the riding crown with 40 victories.

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But the final-day accolades went to the Reddam-O’Neill team as it also won the Grade I, $350,000 Hopeful at Saratoga with its Square Eddie Cal-bred, Ralis. In addition O’Neill’s Jakaby Jade, with Flavien Prat up for owners Steven Keh and Slam Dunk Racing, won the $100,000 Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf Stakes in the ninth, the race after the Futurity, to give O’Neill a third stakes on the day added to his two, East Coast, West Coast Grade Is.

It all fit like a bow into Del Mar’s closing day, a microcosm of the summer meeting in that long shots ruled. The top price horse of the meet was Bird E House, who paid $103.60, but on closing day, Kenny Black’s No Comparison came close at $95.40 in the third race after Bruce Headley’s The Gold Monkey won the second and paid $91. In all, 71 winners paid $20 or more for the meeting. On Monday, the Pick Five paid a meeting-high $313,842.55, and one ticket in the Pick Six, purchased in Stockton for $72, paid $694,742.40. Del Mar’s money tree shook green all summer long if you had the right long shots.

It was a relatively safe meeting, with eight horse fatalities, including one on the final day. Tirpitz, a 3-year-old gelding making his fifth start in the third race Monday on the turf course, fractured a left knee and was euthanized. Jockey Corey Nakatani injured a shoulder, but it was not believed to be serious.


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