In Greek mythology, Nysos was a demigod who lived on Mount Nysa, identified as modern day Mount Kithairon.
On Sunday, the three Thoroughbreds who lined up against the four-legged Nysos could be forgiven for thinking that they had been matched with some kind of equine demigod. Nysos cruised to the lead at the head of the stretch and drew off to score by 8 3/4 lengths, covering the seven furlongs in a swift 1:21.71, without ever being extended.
This performance confirmed the impression made when the $550,000 OBS April Two-Year-Old in Training purchase made his debut last month, sauntering home 10 1/2 lengths clear in a Santa Anita Park maiden special weight while running six furlongs in 1:08.97.
Even after only two starts, it's clear that Nysos is extremely fast. Now with an eye to the future, the question is, how far can he carry that speed? The strength of his gallop-out on Sunday was one very promising sign, and on pedigree, there are also grounds for optimism. Nyquist himself was precocious and speedy, going undefeated in five starts at 2, including the Best Pal Stakes (G2), Del Mar Futurity (G1), FrontRunner Stakes (G1), and Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1). He carried on in the same vein early in his 3-year-old career, taking the San Vicente Stakes (G2), running the seven furlongs in 1:20.71, the Florida Derby (G1), by 3 1/4 lengths, and stretched out successfully to capture the Kentucky Derby (G1), after pressing remarkably fast opening fractions of :22.58 and :45.72. After that effort, he failed to place in three subsequent starts, and was retired to Darley, Lexington, for the 2017 breeding season.
Although he was Leading Freshman Sire of 2020, when represented by champion 2-year-old filly Vequist and Summer Stakes (G1) scorer Gretzky the Great , Nyquist has been most unusual in getting a successively higher number of stakes winners in each of his first three crops. There have been five (three graded) in his first; six, two graded, including the Awesome Again Stakes (G1) scorer, Slow Down Andy, in his second; and nine, four graded, including grade 1 winner Randomized and the brilliant but ill-fated New York Thunder in his third. Nysos and Crimson Advocate, successful in the Queen Mary Stakes (G2) at Royal Ascot, are stakes scorers from his fourth crop, which also includes the highly rated maiden winner Knightsbridge.
Zetta Z, the dam of Nysos, never ran but is by Bernardini, who proved his classic distance credentials with wins in the Preakness Stakes (G1), Travers Stakes (G1), and Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1). Zetta Z's dam, Seresa's Spirit, a daughter of Rahy, was unraced, but she is half sister to Etched, who won the Nashua Stakes (G3) over a mile at 2 and the Meadowlands Cup (G2) and Monmouth Cup (G2) at nine furlongs as an older horse; to the English juvenile group winner Emotionless; and Sham Stakes (G3) victor Out of Bounds.
The third dam is Unbridled Elaine, who took the Pocahontas Stakes at 2, but whose finest hour came with a victory over her elders in the Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1) at 3. Unbridled Elaine was half sister to another very talented female in Glitter Woman, who captured five graded stakes, including the Ashland Stakes (G1), and produced the Suburban Handicap (G1) winner Political Force to the cover of Unbridled Elaine's sire, Unbridled's Song.
In tail female line, the family goes back to Swoon, Broodmare of the Year in 1956, and dam of Swoon's Son, a Hall of Famer and himself sire of Hall of Famer Chris Evert. Swoon is ancestress of more than 90 stakes winners, also including champion sprinter Eillo, grade 1 winners Gygistar and Flat Fleet Feet, and Canadian champions Catch the Ring and Catch the Thrill.
Historically, the family is an interesting one. In theory it is one of the branches of Bruce Lowe's #12 family going back to the Brimmer Mare foaled around 1695. However, study of mitochondrial haplotypes reveal that this branch is different from the two mtDNA families usually found among descendants of the Brimmer Mare (of course there should be only one, but the family splits due to the conflation of two different, similarly named mares which occurred in the fifth edition of the first volume of the General Stud-Book).
The mtDNA record indicates that Nysos is from the A ntDBA haplogroup, a rare one that appears in only 1% of the Thoroughbred population, and which traces to a North American mare by Jack of Diamonds—foaled around 1765—who was wrongly added to a branch of the Bruce Lowe #12 family. The family, whose most recent common ancestor is the mare Maria (foaled around 1800) produced several notables in the relatively early days of American racing, including one of the most famous American runners and sires of all time, Lexington, as well Hall of Fame horse Luke Blackburn; the 1874 Kentucky Derby captor, Baden-Baden; Leonatus, who took the Kentucky Derby in 1883; the 1886 Preakness Stakes scorer, The Bard; Foxford, the Belmont Stakes winner in 1891; Ildrim, successful in the Belmont Stakes in 1900; Souffle, who took the Kentucky Oaks in 1896; Lady Schorr, who lifted the Kentucky Oaks in 1901; and, finally, Kalitan, who won the Preakness Stakes in 1917.
There are some more recent standouts in other parts of the world, among them the great Australian horse Kingston Town, and in Europe, Ouija Board and her son Australia. The Swoon branch that leads to Nysos had been bumping along at a fairly modest level, until Swoon's granddam, Silk Lady, was bred to Greenock—a fairly obscure sire, but stemming also from the A1 haplogroup—to produce Swoon's dam, Sadie Greenock, from which point the revival in its fortunes began.
Looking at the more immediate pedigree, Nysos and Gretzky the Great are the two stakes winners from 10 starters by Nyquist from Bernardini mares, with the previously mentioned Knightsbridge being a product of the same cross. We can also note that Nysos' dam has a considerable buildup of Mr. Prospector and the Tartan strains of Dr. Fager and his sire, Rough 'n Tumble. Bernardini's broodmare sire, Quiet American, is by Fappiano (by Mr. Prospector out of a Dr. Fager mare) out of a Dr. Fager mare who is three-quarter sister to the dam of Fappiano. Her granddam is by Unbridled's Song, a son of Unbridled, who is by Fappiano with a second dam by In Reality (dam, champion My Dear Girl, by Rough 'n Tumble), and is also inbred to Dr. Fager's dam, Aspidistra. Another cross of In Reality comes in via Carol's Folly, the third dam of Zetta Z, who is by Taylor's Falls, a son of In Reality. This becomes more relevant when we note that Nyquist's broodmare sire, Forestry, has a granddam, Surgery, who is by Dr. Fager out of a three-quarter sister to Mr. Prospector, so reversing Fappiano.