May 21st, 2016
The 141st Preakness Stakes (shown below) will be viewed by many as an upset with Exaggerator finally beating undefeated Nyquist after 5 attempts.
But in reality, this was a confluence of talent and opportunity. Coming into the Preakness Stakes, Exaggerator had the highest average Beyer Speed figure for 3 year-olds in 2016. He had a 98 Beyer Speed Figure in the San Vicente Stakes in February, a 96 Beyer in the San Felipe in March, a 103 Beyer in the Santa Anita Derby in April and a 101 Beyer in the Kentucky Derby.
Exaggerator excelled on a sloppy track in the Santa Anita Derby, so today’s win should have been no surprise. Credit Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux, who did a masterful job placing Exaggerator right where he needed to be to have a chance to run down Nyquist.
In summary–Exaggerator is an extremely talented thoroughbred. Entering the Preakness Stakes, Exaggerator was ranked as the 7th best racehorse in the world in Longines World’s Best Racehorse rankings and the 3rd best on dirt (Source). His winning time of 1:58.31 on a similar sloppy track was faster than American Pharoah’s time of 1:58.46 in the 2015 Preakness Stakes. Admittedly, American Pharoah coasted home in last year’s Preakness, winning by 7 lengths. But last year’s race had faster fractions through 1 mile and I feel that Exaggerator would have given American Pharoah a run for his money if nothing else.
Although many are disappointed that we won’t have a Triple Crown candidate entering Belmont this year, REJOICE! The sport has two great 3 year-old thoroughbreds. Despite the loss, Nyquist is still a great race horse. He is 8-1 and has won five Grade 1 stakes races. His $5.1 million dollars in race earnings ranks him in the top 50 all-time.
Some may question jockey Mario Gutierrez’s decision to get hooked up in a battle for the lead with Uncle Lino so early but it is hindsight vision. Nyquist was right where he needed to be but just didn’t have the final kick down the stretch that he had in the Kentucky Derby. I feel this was due to the track conditions. Nyquist had only run once on a wet track that was rated as “good” in the Florida Derby. I generally feel that he would have won today had the track surface been rated as fast or good. But Mother Nature intervened.
The Belmont Stakes on June 11th will hopefully offer a rematch of these two great thoroughbreds. And don’t forget about Dale Romans’ Cherry Wine who took a huge leap in improvement today with his surprise 2nd place finish. He looks like a horse who will excel in races 1 1/4 mile or longer.