BALTIMORE (AP) — Exaggerator has finally beaten Nyquist, and it came in the Preakness on Saturday to end any chance of another Triple Crown.
Seizing the lead at the top of the stretch, Exaggerator splashed past the tiring Kentucky Derby winner and went on for a 3 1/2-length victory over Cherry Wine on a rain-drenched Pimlico Race Course.
Exaggerator’s elusive victory over his nemesis came after four tough losses, including a runner-up finish to Nyquist in the Derby. Nyquist finished third.
“I had a dream trip today,” jockey Kent Desormeaux said. “It was an amazing race and Exaggerator is an amazing horse.”
The day began on a somber note. Two horses died and a jockey was injured in the first four races, one of the horses bred and owned by the owners of the ill-fated Barbaro.
Sent off as the 3-5 favorite in the 11-horse field, Nyquist dueled with Uncle Lino for the lead through the first mile of the 1 3/16th-mile second leg of the Triple Crown.
And then it was all Exaggerator — no kidding.
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. Desormeaux saw an opening around the final turn, angled outside and Exaggerator took over.
In winning his third Preakness, Desormeaux was grateful for a perfect trip that ended Nyquist’s perfect record.
“To me it looked like Nyquist was trying to establish an outward position, maybe in the four path,” Desormeaux said. “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.’ ”
Stradivari was fourth, followed by Lani, Laoban, Uncle Lino, Fellowship, Awesome Speed, Collected and Abiding Star.
Exaggerator, the 5-2 second choice, returned $7.20, $3.20 and $2.40. Cherry Wine returned $9.80 and $4.20, and Nyquist paid $2.20 to show. Winning time for the race was 1:58.31.
Nyquist broke well under Mario Gutierrez, and he and 34-1 long shot Uncle Lino went back and forth in the lead. The duel was costly. When asked for his usual winning burst, the son of Uncle Mo just didn’t have it for the first time in his career.
“Hats off to Exaggerator and Team Desormeaux. What a great run,” Nyquist’s trainer Doug O’Neill said. “I didn’t think we could get beat, to be honest with you.”
Trained by Kent’s younger brother, Keith, Exaggerator showed his talent in the slop once again. He won the Santa Anita Derby over a sloppy track, and did the same on a foggy, rainy day. It was the first Preakness winner for the trainer who began his career in Maryland, and third for the Hall of Fame rider.
Last year, American Pharoah became the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years, and there were many who thought Nyquist would make it two in a row and become the 13th horse to sweep the Derby, Preakness and Belmont.
The Desormeaux brothers have different personalities, and seem to enjoy ribbing each other. There were no family hugs, and no special celebrations.
“I looked at him and he looked at me, and I got a fist pump,” Kent said. “That’s all we did.”
A drenched crowd of estimated at what would be a record 134,000 saw Exaggerator end his losing streak in a big way.
“It wasn’t like we felt we could grind him down,” Keith said. “We always felt we had an exceptional talent.”
And now, it’s on the Belmont Stakes for Exaggerator.
“We can’t wait to run in that race,” Keith said.