Exaggerator Turns the Tables, Wins Preakness
By Tom LaMarra
After four losses to undefeated Nyquist, Exaggerator turned the tables with an off-the-pace victory in the $1.5 million Xpressbet.com Preakness Stakes (gr. I) May 21 at Pimlico Race Course. Watch Video
Owned by Big Chief Racing, Head of Plains Partners, and Rocker O Ranch, Exaggerator, a clear second choice at 5-2 in an 11-horse field, made his run along the inside on the far turn and pulled away to win by 3 1/2 lengths on a track rated sloppy. Longshot Cherry Wine, far back early, also made up ground toward the inside and nosed out Nyquist, the 3-5 choice, for second.
The winner is trained by Keith Desormeaux and was ridden by his brother, Kent, who won multiple riding titles in Maryland when he began his career as a jockey at Pimlico and Laurel Park.
Despite rain for most of the day, the Pimlico infield appeared crowded, as did the grandstand and clubhouse. The Maryland Jockey Club announced a record attendance of 135,256, up from the previous high of 131,680 reported last year.
Total pari-mutuel handle on the 14-race card also was a record at $94,127,434. The previous standard of $91,028,000 was established in 2005.
Exaggerator, who won the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) on a sloppy track, paid $7.20 to win. By Curlin out of the Vindication mare Dawn Strike, Exaggerator was bred in Kentucky by Joseph Murphy and was purchased for $110,000 at the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale.
Reddam Racing's Nyquist, the Uncle Mo colt who won the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), was part of an early pace war through quick fractions but he continued on gamely under Mario Gutierrez given the trip. Stradivari, in his stakes debut, finished fourth.
The final time for 1 3/16 miles was 1:58.31.
"I can't fathom it," Kent Desormeaux said after the victory. "It's going to take a while. I'm in shock right now. I think Nyquist had company all the way around the course and stayed really wide, and I had a dream trip today. I was on the fence and they all stayed wide.
"With these turns you want to paint the fence. We did, they didn't and—not for nothing—knowledge is power."
Uncle Lino fired out of the gate along with Nyquist and Awesome Speed, and it was Uncle Lino who grabbed the inside and led Nyquist by a head through a rapid opening quarter-mile in :22.38. Nyquist had a half-length on Uncle Lino through a half-mile in :46.56, but the latter battled back to almost even terms through six furlongs in 1:11.97.
As the pace began to slow—the mile time was 1:38.19—Exaggerator was in full flight. He rallied from eighth at the three-quarter-mile mark and was on top by 1 1/2 lengths at the stretch call. Nyquist shifted to the outside in the final sixteenth of a mile but failed to gain on the leader.
Exaggerator, who finished second in the Kentucky Derby after an eventful trip, paid $7.20, $3.20, and $2.40 across the board. Cherry Wine, at 17-1, returned $9.80 to place and $4.20 to show, while Nyquist paid $2.20. The $1 exacta was worth $44.20 and the $1 trifecta $73.10.
The order of finish was completed by Lani, Laoban, Uncle Lino, Fellowship, Awesome Speed, Collected, and Abiding Star.
“The horse has been training phenomenally,” Keith Desormeaux said. “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 had a great ability to recover. He showed it today.”
Doug O’Neill, the trainer of Nyquist, was gracious in defeat.
“My hat’s off to Exaggerator and Team Desormeaux,” O’Neill said. “Nyquist is amazing horse and still ran a great race. He’s still a winner in our book. These horses aren’t machines. They all lose at one time or another. He just didn’t bring it today.”
Exaggerator and Nyquist met for the first time in their career debuts June 5 of 2015 at Santa Anita Park. Nyquist won by a head over Annie's Candy, while Exaggerator checked in fifth. In Nyquist's Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) win at Keeneland in October, Exaggerator finished fourth, and in the San Vicente Stakes (gr. II), Exaggerator came in second to Nyquist. The Kentucky Derby produced the same result.
Another meeting is possible in the June 11 Belmont Stakes (gr. I). Keith Desormeaux indicated Exaggerator could be shipped to New York, while O'Neill indicated the Belmont is possible for Nyquist.
"We'll head north and settle in at Belmont," Desormeaux said. "And we can't wait to run in that race."
"We'll huddle up with (owners Paul and Zillah Reddam) and the whole crew and see how he comes out of it," O'Neill said. "It looked like , who trains Cherry Wine for owners Pacella Racing, Frank Jones Jr., and Frank Shoop, said the Paddy O'Prado colt will head to Belmont along with Brody's Cause, who won the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) before his off-the-board finish in the Kentucky Derby.
"I'm proud of my horse and proud of (jockey Corey Lanerie)," Romans said. "Exaggerator looked great all week and Keith did a good job with him. It's a special thing, two brothers in a classic like this. That's the special thing about the sport. It proves it's a family affair."
Lanerie said Cherry Wine broke inward and lacked speed, though his style of racing is to drop way back and make one run.
"They rode around and let them come to us, and he started to show his kick in the middle of the turn at the three-eighths pole," Lanerie said. "We did not encounter any trouble. We had pretty clear sailing. This one feels good."
Tom Mansor, Purple Shamrock Racing, and trainer Gary Sherlock's Uncle Lino ended up seventh after his efforts and galloped out, but the Uncle Mo colt was vanned off after the race as a precautionary measure. On-call veterinarian Dr. Keith Latson said inflammation was discovered in one of the colt's tendons, and that he could have walked back to the barn if the main track was dry.