• Rick Capone, Sports Editor

Exaggerator beats Nyquist for Preakness Stakes win


The fifth time proved to be the charm for Exaggerator. After losing to Nyquist in their first four meetings, including two weeks ago in the Kentucky Derby (G1), Exaggerator, with Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux riding, finally got the better of his rival to win the $1.5 million Preakness Stakes (G1) on a sloppy track at Pimlico Race Course near Baltimore, Md., on Saturday, May 21. Cherry Wine caught Nyquist at the wire to finish second, while the Kentucky Derby winner finished third. “I can’t even fathom,” said Desormeaux, who was clearly stunned at getting the win after the race in an interview on the NBC broadcast. “It’s going to take a while. I’m in shock right now.” While disappointed in Nyquist’s loss, his trainer, Doug O’Neill, was gracious in defeat. “Hats off to Exaggerator and Team Desormeaux,” said O’Neill. “What a great run. I didn’t think we could get beat, to be honest with you. Nyquist is such an amazing horse. He still ran a great race.” Team Desormeaux that O’Neill referenced consisted of jockey Kent and his brother, Dennis Desormeaux, who trained Exaggerator to perfection leading up to the Preakness. “I hope (the win) is not only because of the muddy track,” said Dennis Desormeaux. “The horse has been training phenomenally. I think there was a conscious decision on the training approach between the Derby and here. My philosophy was to take it as easy as possible because you’re not going to gain any fitness in those two weeks. I did what I could to get him happy and fresh and strong and I’ve always said he’s always had a great ability to recover and he showed it today.” One of the big stories at Pimlico on Saturday leading up to the Preakness was the weather, as it rained all day and by the time the Preakness was run, the track was a sloppy mess. Still, a record crowd of 135,256 was on hand to watch the race. The previous record was 131,680 last year. At the start, Nyquist, who was ridden by his regular jockey, Mario Gutierrez, broke from gate three and went for the lead while challenged by Uncle Lino. Exaggerator broke from gate five and stayed back in eighth place in the 11 horse field, biding his time under Kent Desormeaux, who knew the track well, having won many riding titles at Pimlico and Laurel Park, also in Maryland, when he first started his jockey career. For Desormeaux, it was home-field advantage at Pimlico, and his knowledge of the track paid off. While Exaggerator stayed in the middle of the field, Nyquist found himself in front in a speed duel with Uncle Lino, who was ridden by Fernando Perez. Together, they ran the opening quarter in a fast 22.38 with Uncle Lino leading by a small margin on the inside. Nyquist took over the lead, running 46.56 by the half-mile mark and 1:11.97 by the six-furlongs mark, while still being pressed by Uncle Lino. Meanwhile, Desormeaux guided Exaggerator towards the rail to save ground as the field heading into the final turn. As they rounded the turn, it looked like the race leaders were slowing, which worked well for Exaggerator, who was now running at full speed along the rail, gaining ground on the leaders with every step he took. Coming out of the turn and into moving into the stretch, Desormeaux moved Exaggerator out six wide and began a hard drive towards the lead with mud flying every which way. By midstretch, Exaggerator passed a tiring Nyquist, and charged ahead towards the finish line. Behind him, Gutierrez tried to rally Nyquist, who, after being passed, seemed to make a right turn as he tried to move to the outside as well. On this day though, no one was going to catch Exaggerator, who powered his way across the finish line to get the win by 3-1/2 lengths over Cherry Win, who rallied from 10th place and caught Nyquist at the wire to take second. Nyquist finished third. “I think that Nyquist had company all the way around the course,” said Kent Desormeaux afterwards. “ … I had a dream trip today. I was on the fence and they (Nyquist and Uncle Lino) all stayed wide. (With) these turns (at Pimlico), you want to paint the fence. We did, and they didn’t, and not for nothing, but knowledge is power.” Exaggerator, who is by Curlin-Dawn Raid, by Vindication, ran the 1-3/16 race in 1:58.31. He now has five wins, three seconds, one third and $2,971,120 in earnings in 11 career starts. For Nyquist, who is by Uncle Mo-Seeking Gabrielle, by Forestry, it was the first loss of his career. He now has eight wins, one second and $4,727,600 in earnings in nine career starts. (Information courtesy of Equibase.com, BloodHorse.com, PaulickReport.com and PedigreeQuery.com.)

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