Trainer Bob Baffert’s horse, American Freedom, looked like he was going to win the Haskell Invitational, which would have given the trainer his third consecutive win at the event, and six wins in the last seven tries, but ultimately fell short in the final stretch. Since a lot of the horse racing betting was on American Freedom, there were a lot of disappointed fans at the end of the race.
Keith Desormeaux, the trainer of Exaggerator, the winner of the 2016 Preakness and the Haskell invitational winner, said he felt the race set up perfectly for his horse. Desormeaux said it wasn’t about his horse laying off the pace, but the way the race was set up in front of him.
After Exaggerator grabbed the lead, American Freedom continued chasing after him, but by then Desormeaux said it was obvious that the race was over.
Kent Desormeaux, the jockey that rode Exaggerator, said when he turned the horse loose, the horse proved that it was the man.
American Freedom’s jockey Rafael Bejarano, said when Exaggerator came around him, the horse crossed him a couple of times. The jockey said he had to change course in the stretch, then let the horse run again.
Bejarano said he was disappointed about the result of the race. The jockey said he had hoped that a prestigious race like the Haskell Invitational would have been run cleanly by all contestants. Bejarano feels like the fact that Exaggerator crossed his lane and made him change course cost American Freedom the chance to win the race.
Kent Desormeaux dismissed Bejarano’s claims, and said there was no contact during the race, and joked about Bejarano getting too old. Desormeaux said it was no different than what happened at the Preakness. The jockey said if he passes someone during a race, he has no problem throwing mud in their face so they don’t engage him again.
Desormeaux called it a tactic that is too easy not to use. He said he passed Bejarano cleanly, and said Bejarano had already been screaming before Exaggerator blew past him.
Exaggerator, who was sired by Curlin, the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner as well as a two-time Horse of the Year winner, loves to run on mud and has been very successful on mud tracks. Four of Exaggerator’s six wins have been on sloppy surfaces, including the Preakness and Santa Anita Derby, which were very muddy due to rain this year.
Kent Desormeaux said the difference between his horse and others when it comes to muddy surfaces is that his horse doesn’t care and runs like it’s any other day at the office.
With the win, Exaggerator is now in the lead when it comes to 3-year-old horses due to his three Grade I wins this year. The $1.25 million Travers Stakes in Saratoga is the only Grade I race exclusive to 3-year-olds left on the schedule for the year.
After the race, Baffert said it was unfortunate that it rained because it changed the complexity of the race. Baffert added that he thought the fact that they were stuck on the outside also didn’t help their chances of winning the race. While Baffert was disappointed his horse didn’t win the race, he acknowledged that Exaggerator was the better horse that day.