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Kwist Gives Nyquist First Maryland Winner Thursday at Laurel
Leading Trainer Gonzalez Pointing Trio to Preakness Weekend Stakes
Multiple Stakes Winner Lebda Likely for $200,000 Chick Lang (G3)
De Francis Dash (G3) Possible for Stakes Winner Eastern Bay
Completed Pass Expected to Defend Title in Jim McKay Turf Sprint
LAUREL, MD – Joseph Besecker’s Kwist became the sixth winner for first-year sire Nyquist and the 2016 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner’s first in Maryland by overcoming an inside post and holding off game favorite Golden Gulley through the stretch to get up by a neck Thursday at Laurel Park.
A narrow third choice at 5-2 in the six-furlong maiden special weight for 2-year-olds, Kwist ($7.20) completed the distance in 1:12.07 over a fast main track in his career debut with Angel Cruz up for summer meet-leading trainer Claudio Gonzalez.
“He broke good,” Gonzalez said. “That is the most important thing with the 2-year-olds. Angel did a really good job when he broke and put him right away in front. When he got into the fight he was able to keep digging and keep digging and got it done.”
A half-brother to two-time Grade 1 winner Midnight Lucky out of the Citidancer mare Citiview, Kwist bumped slightly with Helms Deep a step out of the gate but quickly established position up front and led through splits of 23.20 and 47.16 seconds pressed by Alpha Queue. Kwist remained in control approaching the stretch as Golden Gulley found room inside to launch a bid, but was able to turn back the challenge. It was 5 ¾ lengths back to Alpha Queue in third.
Among Nyquist’s other runners this year are Vequist and Lady Lilly, who respectively ran first and third in the Sept. 7 Spinaway (G1) at Saratoga, and Gretzky The Great, winner of the Soaring Free Stakes Aug. 23 at Woodbine. Dream Quist was his first winner, July 26 at Ellis Park.
“I never like the post position one, especially with 2-year-olds the first time,” Gonzalez said. “You’re never happy about that but we just try to do the best we can and everything worked out today.”
Led by multiple stakes-winning 3-year-old Lebda, Gonzalez said he is pointing three horses toward stakes over Preakness weekend Oct. 1-3 at Pimlico Race Course. A total of 16 stakes, nine graded, worth $3.35 million in purses will be contested led by the 145th running of the Preakness (G1), presented this year as the final jewel in a refashioned Triple Crown as well as a ‘Win and You’re In’ qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).
Gonzalez said he is looking at the $200,000 Chick Lang (G3) for 3-year-olds sprinting six furlongs Oct. 1 for BB Horses’ Lebda, most recently third in the seven-furlong Robert Hilton Memorial Aug. 28 at Charles Town. Third in the Iroquois (G3) last fall at Churchill Downs, Lebda won the one-mile Miracle Wood and 1 1/16-mile Private Terms over the winter at Laurel before live racing was paused in Maryland for 2 ½ months until May 30 amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Prior to the Hilton, Lebda set the pace before finishing sixth in June 27 Ohio Derby (G3) at Thistledown and July 18 Haskell (G1) at Monmouth Park, both contested at 1 1/8 miles. He has two wins, one second and two thirds at distances under one mile.
Gonzalez is also considering the $200,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3) at six furlongs for 3-year-olds and up Oct. 3 for Robert D. Bone’s Eastern Bay, winner of the six-furlong Polynesian Stakes Sept. 5 during Laurel’s Preakness Prep Weekend. The Polynesian was the first career stakes win for the 6-year-old E Dubai gelding after seven previous tries on turf and dirt.
Eastern Bay has won three of four starts since being claimed by Gonzalez for $35,000 out of a runner-up finish in a six-furlong optional claiming allowance Feb. 21 at Laurel. Overall he owns 10 wins and $419,184 in purse earnings from 33 races.
Gonzalez also trains Completed Pass for Bone and is planning to bring the 6-year-old Pass Rush gelding back to defend his title in the $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint for 3-year-olds and up going five furlongs Oct. 1. Bred in Indiana, where he began his racing career in 2017, Completed Pass became a stakes winner for the first time in last year’s McKay, rallying for a one-length triumph as the favorite.
Completed Pass has won two of his last three starts capped by a three-quarter-length victory in the $100,000 Laurel Dash Sept. 7 at Laurel, overcoming a stumble after clipping heels nearing the stretch to win in 1:04.41 for 5 ½ furlongs.
Notes: Owner Joseph Besecker, trainer Claudio Gonzalez and jockey Angel Cruz teamed up for two winners Thursday with first-time starter Kwist ($7.20) in Race 3 for 2-year-olds and main-track-only entrant Cerulean Springs ($7.80) in Race 6, an optional claiming allowance for 3-year-olds and up that was rained off the grass … Meet-leading rider Horacio Karamanos had two winners, Cool Hand Coop ($8.80) in Race 2 and Fortunate Friends ($5) in Race 7.