Exaggerator and Nyquist, the much-touted rivals, faced off in wet conditions in a highly anticipated Preakness Stakes race.
Nyquist jumped out of the gate first, and maintained a lead despite best efforts by Uncle Lino. But Exaggerator came from behind and climbed up steadily along the rail, to hand Nyquist the first-ever defeat of his career.
Cherry Wine overtook Nyquist to finish second.
A sloppy course saturated with some 14 hours of rain didn’t prevent over 134,000 fans from showing up — a Preakness record — any more than it stopped 11 horses from flinging mud as they galloped the 1 3/16 mile of racetrack.
But a “damper” in the form of more than weather had rolled a dark cloud over the afternoon.
— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) May 21, 2016
What started out as a soggy Saturday ripe with possibilities became a grim tale of tragedy before the Preakness gate even opened for famed rivals Nyquist and Exaggerator.
A 4-year-old filly named Pramedya broke down on the turn in the fourth race, tumbling to the ground and tossing jockey Daniel Centeno to the turf.
Gretchen and Roy Jackson’s Pramedya euthanized after breakdown on Preakness undercard: https://t.co/FuowCdJxly
— Derby News (@KentuckyDerbyCJ) May 21, 2016
Pimlico racing officials said the filly had broken her left front cannon bone, and she was euthanized on the track.
To make matters worse, Pramedya is owned by Lael Stables, home of Barbaro. It is the 10th anniversary of Barbaro’s famous breakdown, on the same track, on the same day.
The jockey, Centeno, was taken away in an ambulance with a broken collar bone.
Muddy start at Pimlico in the first race as #3 Homeboykris gets ahead down the stretch pic.twitter.com/rffwSRJaJ6
— David Snyder (@snyderda) May 21, 2016
This tragedy followed an earlier episode in which Homeboykris, the horse who won the first race of the day, collapsed after having his photo taken in the winner’s circle.
The horse will be taken to New Bolton Center in Pennsylvania for an autopsy.
A 9-year-old gelding, Homeboykris won the Champagne Stakes in 2009. In 2010 he ran in the Kentucky Derby. At Pimlico, he had just won his 14th race in 63 career starts.
Rain splattered the track all day on Saturday, accompanied by gusts of wind up to 20 miles per hour.
Trainer Doug O’Neill said he hadn’t expected the weather to affect Nyquist’s performance, despite the fact that the horse had no experience running in slop.
“With a horse like Nyquist, I’m not overly concerned about the weather. As far as rain or shine, we’re not going to change anything shoeing-wise He’s going to wear the same shoes he’s got on. We’d just love to have a beautiful day.”
— Nancy J. Bailey (@cliffysmom) May 21, 2016
According to The Guardian, the Preakness was “full of frontrunners, horses who like to run on the lead.
“Nyquist is one of them, along with Abiding Star, Awesome Speed, Collected, Laoban and Uncle Lino. If the pace is too fast, it gives closers a chance to make a winning run at the end.”
The “closer” label fits Exaggerator, who likes to come up from behind and runs well on a wet track.
With a field of 11 horses, the betting was very sporadic, but in a surprising turn, it was Stradivari who shot to a 3-5 favorite over Nyquist, with Exaggerator hanging in there at third.
The change came with an $80,000 wager placed on Stradivari, according to AL.com.
Tim Wilkin, the horse racing writer for the Albany Times Union, said the large bet on Stradivari to win had made the odds go “a little crazy.”
— HollywoodLife (@HollywoodLife) May 21, 2016
By race time, the odds were back to where they were on the morning line with Nyquist favored at 3-2, Exaggerator second at 5-2 and Stradivari the third pick at 8-1.
The Belmont Stakes is scheduled for Saturday, June 11.
(Photo by Garry Jones/AP)