Horseman Niall Brennan has been selling 2-year-olds that he's raised, broken, and trained since 1991 and has sold so many good horses over the years it's hard to keep track. However, you remember the classic wins and classic years.
Orb , winner of the 2013 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), was broken and got his early training at Brennan's facilty. He broke, trained, and sold Palace Malice , winner of that year's Belmont Stakes.
This year is shaping up as another classic one for Brennan and his team. He and fellow Irishman Mike Ryan successfully pinhooked Nyquist from the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale to last year's Fasig-Tipton Florida sale and now the unbeaten champion colt has run his streak to eight including his victory in the May 7 Run for the Roses.
Nyquist, racing for Reddam Racing and trainer Doug O'Neill, goes for the second leg of the Triple Crown May 21 at Pimlico Race Course in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I).
"You always learn from the good horses and Nyquist is one of those kind of horses," Brennan, a perennial leading 2-year-old consignor, said from his farm near Ocala, Fla.
Brennan and Ryan stretched to $230,000 to buy the colt by Uncle Mo —Seeking Gabrielle, by Forestry, at Keeneland, and were able to get $400,000 for him the following February from agent Dennis O'Neill.
Brennan is currently the third leading consignor of 2-year-olds by gross sales in 2016, having sold 42 of his 50 offerings for $8,168,000. He was fourth in gross sales in 2015 and third in 2014.
"Niall is the ultimate horseman as far as knowing that when you buy one from him you can be very, very confident of what you are getting," Dennis O'Neill said. "He tells you everything you need to know. It just makes my job a lot easier because he's very trustworthy; he's very rarely wrong when he tells me things about horses."
As far as this year's Derby winner, Brennan said, "He was a lovely physical in September and we felt he was one of the best Uncle Mos. We looked at him at the sale independently. Mike saw him and I saw him and we got together on our notes he was one of the better ones we had seen.
"He was always good ... there was nothing that stood out in the initial breaking stages," Brennan said. "We don't zone in on any one horse. It's basically like kindergarten, the brilliant students don't always stand out yet, and they're all like kids having fun in the backyard."
However, once the training process begins, the horses begin to separate.
"Things kind of change in December," Brennan said. "You can kind of see the ones that are naturally talented or gifted because they just catch your eye everyday on the racetrack. They just do everything right. They don't mess around; they don't lose focus. Nyquist was like that.
"He always had a great attitude ... and he does today," he continued. "It's one of his greatest strengths. He's just a classy colt and he was like that as a 2-year-old, which is a very good sign."
Advancing early to the February sale, Nyquist "worked really well and he showed that athleticism and his movement," Brennan said. "When you looked at him on the shank he had great presence—a lovely, intelligent eye and he always carried himself so well."
If anything, Brennan was a bit disappointed with the $400,000 price he went for. Both he—and O'Neill—thought more players were on the horse and would bring more money. Of the 91 juveniles that sold during the sale, Nyquist was the co-16th highest priced horse.
"We thought he could bring more than that based on the market that day—what those upper echelon horses were bringing that day," Brennan said. "It just goes to show you how the game is. It was a little disappointing especially because I game them my stamp of approval. When I stand out there and hang my hat on a horse ... I don't do that often. I gave the 'thumbs up' to anybody who would ask me and I thought they were there.
"There are a lot of horses in sales and everybody in this game has one of those stories where we passed on one we liked because of something silly or a vet report or one we were an underbidder on ... everybody has those stories. We only talk about the good ones. We don't talk about the bad ones.
"Dennis ultimately got a great bargain," he said. "Dennis was right on. He knows what he likes and he sticks on it."
Nyquist has stuck to his competition. Unbeaten in five starts at 2 and named champion 2-year-old male, Nyquist is now three-for-three at 3 heading toward the Preakness.
Brennan has a handful of horses to sell in the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-old sale at Timonium, Md., and next week and may make the short trip to Pimlico for the big race. Regardless, he pays tribute to the horse and his connections.
"The O'Neill team has done a great job with him," Brennan said. "They're just part of the horse and he's really just part of their team. They've done a lovely job of managing his talent and letting him develop. They deserve credit for the way they've managed him."