Exaggerator closes to upset Nyquist in Preakness Stakes

Exaggerator won the Preakness Stakes at Maryland’s Pimlico Race Course on Saturday, upsetting Nyquist’s bid for the Thoroughbred Triple Crown.

This marks the first time Exaggerator has beaten Nyquist, and the first time the 2016 Kentucky Derby winner had lost a race in nine starts. 

Nyquist, ridden by Mario Gutierrez, went to the front out of the starting gate at Maryland’s Pimlico Race Course. He raced outside of long shot Uncle Lino through a :22 1/5 opening quarter. Nyquist stayed in front through a half in :46 2/5.

Exaggerator, ridden by Kent Desormeaux, remained on the rail and was closer to the pace. He moved off the rail and by Nyquist.

Exaggerator had 3 1/2 lengths at the finish over Cherry Wine, who closed for second, getting a head bob over Nyquist.

Nyquist was sent off as the 3-5 favorite, with Exaggerator the 5-2 second choice and paid $7.20 to win, $3.20 to place and $2.40 to show for a $2 bet.

Cherry Wine, trained by Dale Romans and ridden by Corey Lanerie, returned $9.80 and $4.20.

Nyquist paid $2.20 to show.

The 5-1 exacta returned $88.40 for $2. The 5-1-3 trifecta paid $36.55 for a 50-cent bet. The 10-cent Superfecta of 5-1-3-11 returned 31.70.

Exaggerator, who will ship directly to New York for the Belmont Stakes, came into the race 0 for 4 against Nyquist, finishing second twice, fourth and fifth.

However, he did not race against Nyquist in the Santa Anita Derby. That race was competed over a sloppy track in California and Exaggerator romped, leading to the belief that he would be a force over the wet track at Pimlico.

There was a fluctuation in odds at one point during the card when an $80,000 bet was placed on Stradivari to win the race. That sent Stradivari’s odds plummeting to 3-5. However, as the bettors sent their money in on the Preakness, the odds gradually returned to Nyquist being the heavy favorite.

"Hat’s off to Exaggerator and Team Desormeaux," a gracious Doug O’Neill, trainer of Nyquist, said after the race.

The final leg of the series, the Belmont Stakes, will come June 11 at New York’s Belmont Park. The "Test of a Champion" is conducted over 1 1/2 miles.

The 1 3/16 miles were run over a sloppy strip as rain increased on a gloomy, 55-degree day. A tribute to the hearty crowd was Pimlico’s announcement that a record crowd of more than 134,000 was in attendance, surpassing the mark set when American Pharoah won the Preakness during a downpour in 2015.

"I can’t deny he’s won two huge races on a wet track," trainer Keith Desormeaux said. "but he’s been pretty good on fast ones too."

There will be no back-to-back Triple Crown winners, which has happened once when Affirmed and Seattle Slew swept the series in 1977 and ’78, respectively.

Nyquist was looking to follow in American Pharoah’s hoofprints but it was not to be.

Despite the fog, the rain and an undefeated Kentucky Derby winner to contend with, Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux knew the best route to the Preakness winner’s circle with Exaggerator — stay inside and wait.

The rider who started his career in Maryland guided Exaggerator to victory. Just call Pimlico Race Course home track advantage, Desormeaux.

Stride by stride, Exaggerator made up ground along the rail as Nyquist and Uncle Lino dueled for the lead. Kent Desormeaux was watching.

"I had a dream trip," he said. "To me it looked like Nyquist was trying to establish an outward position, maybe in the four path. He was jockeying for position all the way down the back side. And Exaggerator just kind of slid up the fence to the far turn where I actually got to slow him down and say `Whenever I’m ready.’"

The 3-year-old son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin trailed by 13 lengths at one point but kept gaining ground along the rail. Kent Desormeaux saw an opening around the final turn, angled outside and Exaggerator took over.

"I was actually trying to slow him down, asking him to wait," Kent Desormeaux said. "And he just blew up and felt like King Kong. And when I pitched him out, he did what he can do. He exploded."

Stradivari was fourth, followed by Lani, Laoban, Uncle Lino, Fellowship, Awesome Speed, Collected and Abiding Star.

Exaggerator earned $900,000 for the win, improving his career bankroll to $2,971,120. The powerfully built bay colt has won five of 11 starts, with three runner-finishes. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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