A pair of battle-tested performers in their 3-year-old categories, Nest and Epicenter showed grit and determination versus some stiff competition along the Derby and Oaks Trails.
When all the votes were tallied, the title for the 2022 champion 3-year-old filly division went for the second consecutive year to another uber-talented daughter of Curlin out of an A.P. Indy mare. Also trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, Nest follows in the footsteps of 2021 3-year-old filly champion Malathaat, who employed a similar route to Eclipse success, including wins in the GI Central Bank Ashland S. and GI Alabama S.
Finishing in the top three in seven of eight starts in 2022, Nest kicked off the season with a rousing score in Tampa’s Suncoast S. in February before making it look just as easy when stepping up to take Keeneland’s Ashland. Favored over the D. Wayne Lukas-trained Secret Oath (Arrogate) in the GI Kentucky Oaks, Nest crossed the wire second to that rival in the run for the lilies and returned to occupy the same spot while facing colts in the GI Belmont S. in June. Facing her Oaks nemesis in the CCA Oaks at the Spa last summer, Nest powered home a 12 1/4-length winner and bested that rival again next time out in the Alabama. Back in the winner’s circle following a 9 3/4-length tour-de-force victory in the GII Beldame S. during the Belmont at Aqueduct meet in October, she tired late to finish fourth behind her stablemate, this year’s champion older mare Malathaat, in the GI Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Keeneland Nov. 5.
By two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, Nest is out of stakes-winning Marion Ravenwood, already responsible for GI Santa Anita H. victor Idol (Curlin), in addition to stakes winner Lost Ark (Violence). Her second dam is GSW and GISP Andujar (Quiet American), hailing from the family of GI Kentucky Derby winner Real Quiet (Quiet American).
“Nest, who was foaled in the evening on Apr. 8 with a normal delivery, arrived without complication and was fortunate enough to have a very caring mother. She was medium sized, but always perfectly balanced, dead correct and her athleticism was strong while remaining feminine. To assume we knew she was going to be a star would be a vast overstatement, but we always loved her.
“During her early yearling days, she was always smart and never nervous. She was a leader in the pack and never got pushed around. When we sold her at Keeneland, frankly speaking, we were very disappointed with her sale price. We sold two other fillies that brought more than double her price and we couldn’t understand why. We thought maybe it was because she wasn’t a towering monster of a filly, but that is what we loved about her. While we were a bit disappointed at the sale, we were thrilled she was going to Todd Pletcher.
“Nest has flattered our family and everyone associated with Ashview Farm. We are grateful to all her connections and most especially to Nest because it’s been a privilege to be associated with her.”
–Ashview Farm’s Gray Lyster
Epicenter earned his Eclipse statue the hard way, dancing every dance from the start of the year straight through to a gut-wrenching conclusion at the Breeders’ Cup. The Winchell Thoroughbreds colorbearer announced himself as a Kentucky Derby contender with a romping victory in the Gun Runner S. as he approached his third birthday in late 2021 and headed to Louisville off victories in the GII Risen Star S. and GII Louisiana Derby.
Sent off the 4-1 favorite on the First Saturday in May, Epicenter took the lead with authority at the quarter-pole, only to be run down, improbably, by 80-1 longshot Rich Strike (Keen Ice).
Favored again at Pimlico two weeks later, Epicenter was jostled in traffic and well back early before making a gallant run up the rail to miss catching Early Voting (Gun Runner) while finishing second in the GI Preakness S.
Epicenter returned for the second half the season with a win in the GII Jim Dandy S. in July before a decisive 5 1/4-length victory in the Aug. 27 GI Runhappy Travers S., a triumph which would ultimately clinch his championship title.
The year ended on a somber note when Epicenter suffered a career-ending injury during the GI Breeders’ Cup Classic. He has already taken up residence at Ashford Stud, where he will begin his stud career in the coming weeks.
“Epicenter was a medium-sized foal that was really smart. He grew into an extremely well-balanced yearling with a great walk, very cat like. Very proud of Epicenter and thankful for the hands he got in. Winchell and Asmussen, can’t do any better.”
–Mike Harris, whose family’s Westwind Farms bred Epicenter