There will be no Triple Crown winner this year after Exaggerator and a hot early pace extinguished Nyquist’s bid in the Preakness Stakes (G1).
Under jockey Mario Gutierrez, the previously undefeated Nyquist broke alertly but they found themselves in a bitter early pace duel with Uncle Lino, going 22.38 and then 46.56 for the first half-mile. Nyquist never looked comfortable dueling for the early lead.
Meanwhile Exaggerator, under Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux was biding his time sitting in eighth after the opening half mile, made a good move along the inside, angled out six wide for the stretch drive, kicked clear and then lugged in a bit while idling, but hanging on to win by three lengths.
The winner stopped the timer over the sloppy main track in 1:58.31 and returned his backers $7.20. It was just the fourth time in the past four decades that the Derby runner up came back to win the second jewel of the Triple Crown.
Nyquist battled on and lost a photo to the late running Cherry Wine for the place spot, who was sent off at 17-1 and completed a $2 exacta that paid $88.40.
Replay of the 2016 Preakness Stakes
“I’m in shock right now,” winning rider Kent Desormeaux said. “I think that Nyquist had company all the way around the course. They stayed really wide. For the [trouble] I’ve had in his previous starts, I had a dream trip today. I was on the fence and they all stayed wide. These turns, you want to paint the fence. We did, they didn’t and, not for nothing, but knowledge is power.”
His brother Keith, the trainer of Exaggerator is committed to the Belmont Stakes (G1) in three 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. [The Belmont] is three weeks from today, so I’ll be there with bells on.”
When asked about Nyquist coming back in the Belmont Stakes, trainer Doug O’Neill said, “We’ll huddle up with Paul and Zillah Reddam and the whole crew and see how he comes out of it. It looked like he came back and got unsaddled in good shape. Maybe we’ll try again.”
For the second year in a row the skies opened and the Pimlico main track was a sea of slop. Exaggerator had performed well on off track, his win in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) over a sloppy track the most impressive Road to the Kentucky Derby points race.
More than the off going, the fast pace was the key for Exaggerator. The race could have been quite different if Gutierrez had taken back off the early speed of Uncle Lino.
We will never know for sure, but a more patient ride by Gutierrez and we may have seen a different result, or at the very least a much closer finish.