Updated on 05/31/2016 11:16AM

Exaggerator finally beats Nyquist, wins Preakness

Barbara D. Livingston
Exaggerator, ridden by Kent Desormeaux, wins the Preakness Stakes by 3 1/2 lengths Saturday.

BALTIMORE – On a cold, rainy, dreary afternoon, the wattage from the smiles of those connected to Exaggerator could have lit up the town, from the Inner Harbor to Camden Yards, to Fells Point, and all the way to Pimlico Race Course.

Exaggerator had given futile chase to Nyquist at Santa Anita, Keeneland, and just two weeks ago in the Kentucky Derby when finishing second, but on Saturday, in his fifth try, he had finally, memorably prevailed in the 141st Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the Triple Crown.

In Charm City, the fifth time was the charm.

“This is the only time when we’re part of the mainstream media,” said Keith Desormeaux, Exaggerator’s trainer. “It’s an American classic for a reason. To finally get to win one, it’s kind of hard to describe. What I’m feeling now is awesome confirmation of a lifetime of dedicating myself to finding and getting the best out of a horse.”

Desormeaux won the race in concert with his brother, jockey Kent Desormeaux, who gave Exaggerator a flawless ride. He won it with the backing of Matt Bryan, who races as Big Chief Racing and has given Keith Desormeaux the financial wherewithal to pick out more-expensive yearlings. Desormeaux’s girlfriend, Julie Clark, works tirelessly as his assistant trainer. This was a victory for perseverance.

It was Exaggerator who persevered most of all. This was his 11th lifetime start and his fifth start of the year. He has raced in California, New York, Louisiana, Kentucky and now Maryland and has fired almost every time, with five wins and nine finishes in the money. But until Saturday, he had never defeated Nyquist. By winning the Preakness, Exaggerator sent Nyquist to his first defeat and allowed American Pharoah – who swept the Triple Crown last year – to retain his title as the only horse to have won the Triple Crown since 1978.

Exaggerator has a powerful late kick, but he moved to the leaders on his own, then turned on the jets down the lane and won by 3 1/2 lengths. Cherry Wine, 10th early in the 11-horse field, closed stoutly to nose out Nyquist for second. Stradivari was another half-length back in fourth, then came Lani, Laoban, Uncle Lino, Fellowship, Awesome Speed, Collected, and Abiding Star.

Uncle Lino was taken by van from the track with inflammation in his left front tendon, but he was “bearing weight on all four limbs,” according to Dr. Keith Latson, the on-call veterinarian for the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

Exaggerator, the second choice at 5-2 to Nyquist’s 3-5, paid $7.20 for a $2 win ticket. He completed 1 3/16 miles on sloppy, sealed track in 1:58.31.

“The most important thing is his ability to recover from his efforts. And he recovered from the Derby quickly,” said Keith Desormeaux, who said Kent’s first comment to him when he got back to the winner’s circle was, “Keith, he’s cooled out already.”

“Most horses that run that effort, they’re sweating, bug-eyed,” Keith Desormeaux said. “He was totally calm.”

The race, and the weather, were in Exaggerator’s favor. It rained much of the day, producing a surface similar to what Exaggerator thrived over when winning the Santa Anita Derby on April 9. And then the race unfolded at a scalding pace that left Nyquist vulnerable.

Nyquist was sent hard from the gate to outrun Uncle Lino to his inside and Awesome Speed to his outside, but he and Uncle Lino sped the opening quarter in 22.38 seconds – the fastest opening quarter-mile in the race’s history – and Nyquist was in front after a half in 46.56 seconds and six furlongs in 1:11.97. He was slowing down, and the others were gaining, most notably Exaggerator, who had saved ground from the start and was ready to pounce.

“I had an absolute dream ride,” Kent Desormeaux said. “I was able to inch forward and gain on the leaders slowly and quietly. From the three-eighths to the quarter, I was slowing him down, waiting. He felt like King Kong. When I pitched him out, he exploded.”

Up in the stands, Keith Desormeaux admitted he was initially worried when Kent chose an early path along the rail that other riders ignored, but Kent – whose first taste of the success that brought him to the Hall of Fame began in Maryland – said his familiarity with the track was beneficial.

“Welcome to my house!” he bellowed at the post-race press conference.

“That’s why he’s in the Hall of Fame – those kinds of decisions,” said Keith Desormeaux, who also started his career in Maryland as an exercise rider before advancing to training.

Nyquist ran well in defeat, but the early pace and relentless charge from Exaggerator proved hurdles too high to overcome.

“He still ran a great race,” said his trainer, Doug O’Neill, who won his only Preakness in 2012 with his Derby winner of that year, I’ll Have Another.

Kent Desormeaux was winning the Preakness for the third time, but this was Keith’s first in a classic race. Their relationship is a complicated one, and they failed to toe the sentimentality line after the race.

“Brotherly love – is that different from any other kind of love?” Keith Desormeaux said. “When you have that love, you don’t need to show it outwardly.”

“I looked at him, he looked at me, and I got a fist pump. That was it,” Kent Desormeaux said.

Exaggerator is a son of Curlin, who won the Preakness in 2007 after finishing third in the Derby. Exaggerator earned $900,000 from the gross purse of $1.5 million to bring his career total to just shy of $3 million.

Matt Bryan and Ron Ortowski – who races as Rocker O Ranch – were the original partners in Exaggerator. Head of Plains Partners, run by Sol Kumin, bought in before the Santa Anita Derby. After the Santa Anita Derby, WinStar Farm acquired the breeding rights to Exaggerator. As with the Desormeaux brothers, their belief in Exaggerator was rewarded on Saturday.

Keith Desormeaux immediately committed to the third leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, on June 11 in New York. O’Neill said “maybe we’ll try again” in the Belmont with Nyquist but was not as emphatic as Desormeaux.

The score is still 4-1 in favor of Nyquist, but in the Triple Crown, they’re all tied up. And that’s no exaggeration.

Bobby Yasinow More than 1 year ago
The story of this Preakness is the crappy ride Nyquist got. Sprinting for a lead he didn't need, Mario used him up early, and he ran on guts and fumes down the stretch. Period.
BrownRiggle More than 1 year ago
The trainer said he gave MG those instructions. Do your research.
Donald Pharr More than 1 year ago
Classic winners ridden? Add them up and then check back over the past 70 years. Also check the average Classic field size over those 70 years. Kent Desormeaux is easily in the top rank.
Donald Pharr More than 1 year ago
I just hope that people will begin to recognize that Kent Desormeaux is one of the greatest jockeys in the history of North American racing. The Sunday NYT article made it sound like he and his brother got to Baltimore by jumping off a shrimp boat,
Sammy More than 1 year ago
Good Race.  Winner got a great ride.  Mario G.'s " loose rein early splits " would cost Nyquist at the end of the Preakness.  Its still Grade 1 racing.  Cheers to Keith and the connections.  They earned it and never stepped outside the Ring to duck anyone.  On to Belmont !
Jack Armstead More than 1 year ago

Mad respect to Steve Crist.  In his DRF article, he called this almost "Cold" and should have the Superfecta for $1.00 many times.  He was just "a nose" from calling it straight... and even factored in the weather/surface move-up with Exaggerator.

Again... great handicapping Mr. Crist.

ItsmeEddieC More than 1 year ago
Exaggerator reminds me of his Dad, Curlin.  And he's still learning and will only get better with time.  I hope he stays healthy and that they run as a 4 year old.  I think he could be very special
Donald Pharr More than 1 year ago
Exaggerator is a very exciting horse. He reminds me of Alysheba, Real Quiet, and Orb. I just wish that Team Nyquist had let their horse decide how to run this race. But thank you, Desormeaux brothere, for Real Quiet and Exaggerator, plus all the other great ones through the years,

Johnny Matheis More than 1 year ago

I want to congratulate the ones who picked Exaggerator to win. Steven Crist, Ron Gierkink, Marcus Hersh, Jay Hovdey, Marty McGee, and Kenny Peck. Closest to the trifecta looked to be Crist, Hersh, and Peck. Exaggerator really did look good on paper, in my estimation running better sections of the Derby (Nyquist had the best first half mile, but Exaggerator ran the better second half mile and better last quarter). I came up empty by just betting trifectas and supers, never including the Cherry. Romans kills me. Never runs to form or with any pattern, and yet always gets bet down to underlay prices. The mob loves Romans and his underlays.

Should have bet Exaggerator straight. Belmont is going to be tough to figure. While Exaggerator had the better dosage, I thought the top side of his lineage was less inclined to distance, while Nyquist, if you go back four generations, had a very stellar line up of sires for distance. Don't especially like either one, and Romans rarely runs good races back to back, so Cherry doesn't appeal to me. Anyone less than 5-2 is a huge underlay for the Belmont, but if anyone wins at less than 5-2, the mob and Vegas will be very happy.

redboy More than 1 year ago

Lets put aside the Nyquist  vs Exaggerator  , Exaggerator vs Nyquist  for a  few.  The fact remains California horses where on display yet again,and now have won 7 of the last 8  Triple Crown races

And apparently both   Nyquist and XG will be in the starting lineup for the Belmont.

Mary Richter More than 1 year ago
Both bred in Kentucky is how I look at it. 
cg4parts More than 1 year ago
CONGRATULATIONS!!!    Messrs. Desormeaux !!

Can you bring back the "mudder" symbols of the "80's ?
They were invaluable. And quick. 
Good mudder was a circular 8-sided figure, looked like a flower, or a spider..... i think. ( might have been a symbol similar to that used to designate an apprentice was riding. Hence the  "bug-boy" phrase.
Superior mudder  I clearly remember was a circle with an  "X" inside the circle.

Exaggerator should earn the later symbol,, in my opinion.