Preakness Day dawned with some gentle rain at Pimlico in Baltimore, turning the track conditions to muddy.
The Preakness Stakes, this second leg of the Triple Crown, shows promise for Exaggerator, who thrives on a sloppy track. But nothing has deterred Nyquist so far.
— Jennie Rees (@TracksideJennie) May 18, 2016
Despite racing’s notorious odds and the “anything can go wrong with a live animal” factor, Nyquist is still the unanimous favorite to win among racing experts.
— Breeders’ Cup (@BreedersCup) May 21, 2016
There are so many unknowns in racing, in fact, that when he first went to auction, even Nyquist was never pegged as a winner.
His parentage was uncertain in terms of producing talent. He was purchased for $400,000 by Bloodstock agent Dennis O’Neill, whose brother Doug took on the job of training the then-unnamed 2-year-old for owner Paul Reddam. USA Today summed up the numbers prior to Nyquist’s Preakness run.
“With eight victories in eight starts – including five Grade I stakes races at five different tracks – Nyquist has already earned $4,954,200, more than 12 times Reddam’s initial investment. He enters the Preakness as the 3-5 morning-line favorite with a reasonable chance to give racing its second straight Triple Crown winner after a 37-year drought.”
USA Today’s Courier Journal cautioned that “this isn’t the Kentucky Derby all over again.” Nevertheless, it reached out to 12 voters, 10 of whom picked Nyquist to cross the finish line first in the Preakness.
Joe Kristufek, racing analyst at Churchill Downs, selected Stradivari as the winner, with Nyquist running a close second.
“Stradivari’s Keeneland allowance win was one of the most visually impressive performances by any racehorse this season. He’s rested, well drawn on the outside and the price will be fair enough to take a shot against the champ.”
Marty McGee of the Daily Racing form said Exaggerator would have his run, with Nyquist trailing along with the goofball grey, “Loony Lani.”
“Persistence finally pays for Team Desormeaux.”
McGee was not alone in his admiration for the big, dark horse Exaggerator, who closed in on Nyquist to finish second in the Derby. Exaggerator was named in all 12 guesstimates by the experts, as placing high in the Preakness field.
The LA Times called the rivalry between Nyquist and Exaggerator, “this year’s Affirmed and Alydar.”
“The pair has met four times with Nyquist winning each time. In their two races this year — the San Vicente Stakes and the Kentucky Derby — Exaggerator finished second both times.”
Keith Desormeaux, Exaggerator’s trainer, said it was too early to get to the point of comparison.
“When Affirmed became a Triple Crown champion, and Alydar was on his ass every jump of the way, then it became a legendary rivalry. We don’t meet those qualifications yet.”
“I’m going to try and turn the tables on him. But I don’t think it’s considered a real rivalry yet until I threaten him and until the Triple Crown is complete.”
Nyquist’s trainer Doug O’Neill admits that Exaggerator is an intimidating force.
“Exaggerator scares us because … he’s the kind of horse that can be laying back and just surge at just the right time. We really respect him a lot but we’re super happy with how Nyquist is coming into this. We feel we’re going to be in a pretty good spot.”
Catch the Preakness Stakes Saturday on NBC at 5 p.m. with a post time of 6:45 p.m. ET.
[Photo by Patrick Semansky/AP]