Finally, Exaggerator Chases Down Nyquist In Preakness

Baltimore Sun
Cherry Wine finished second and Nyquist finished third.

BALTIMORE — Through a string of races in California and the biggest one of them all in Kentucky, they chased Nyquist.

Twice trainer Keith Desormeaux thought they had him hooked and ready to pass. Each time, Nyquist found an extra gear.

Persistence paid off Saturday when Exaggerator finally passed his rival with a mighty charge to win the 141st Preakness.

Cherry Wine finished second and Nyquist finished third.

Desormaux brought Exaggerator to Pimlico Race Course for a fifth shot at the unbeaten Kentucky Derby champion. Maybe, just maybe, he figured, Nyquist would be a little tired and his horse's exceptional powers of recovery would flip the script.

He proved himself an exceptional mud horse with his win in the Santa Anita Derby, and the attribute paid off at Pimlico, where the track remained thick with glop after a steady overnight rain.

"I hope it's not only because of the muddy track," Desormeaux said. "The horse has been training phenomenally. I think there was a conscious decision on the training approach between the Derby and here. My philosophy was to take it as easy as possible because you're not going to gain any fitness in those two weeks."

American Pharoah had glided over the muck on his way to the Triple Crown in 2015, but Nyquist could not do the same. So we won't see the repeat many people had spent the week discussing.

In its place, we have a story of two brothers — even-tempered trainer Keith Desormeaux and live-wire jockey Kent Desormeaux. They're the pride of Louisiana Cajun country, but both men learned key lessons during apprentice years in Maryland.

They're different personalities, not always on the same page away from the track. Keith is among those who've expressed concerns about Kent's behavior away from the track. But he's always defended his younger brother's brilliance as a big-race rider. And it was on display Saturday.

"For the abbreviations I've had in previous starts, I had a dream trip today," Kent Desormeaux said. "I was on the fence and they all stayed wide. These turns, you want to paint the fence. We did, they didn't and, not for nothing, but knowledge is power."

We also have the story of a rivalry, especially if Nyquist and Exaggerator meet for a sixth time in the Belmont Stakes.

Nyquist's trainer, Doug O'Neill, was pleased with the way his "amazing horse" ran, but it wasn't enough to beat Exaggerator again.

"Hats off to Exaggerator and Team Desormeaux," O'Neill said. "What a great run. I didn't think we could be beat, to be honest with you."

The day got off to an eerie start. Nine-year-old gelding Homeboykris collapsed and died after winning the first race, and 4-year-old filly Pramedya was euthanized on the track after fracturing her left front leg in the fourth.

It was the 10th anniversary of Barbaro's breakdown in the Preakness and his owners, Roy and Gretchen Jackson, also owned Pramedya, adding an additional layer of heartache.

The other story of the day was weather. A relentless, chilly rain soaked Pimlico overnight and well into the morning. This was not the blinding summer storm that enveloped the 2015 Preakness, but the track was muddy.

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