06/11/2016 7:15PM

Exaggerator runs out of steam as Belmont Stakes favorite

Barbara D. Livingston
Preakness Stakes winner Exaggerator finished 11th in the Belmont Stakes on Saturday.

ELMONT, N.Y. – The rain came too late for Exaggerator.

A proven commodity in the slop, Exaggerator was less than his best over a fast track in Saturday’s $1.5 million Belmont Stakes, fading to 11th in the 13-horse field, 14 lengths behind the winner, Creator. He was the 7-5 favorite.

Thus, Exaggerator’s Triple Crown odyssey ended with a thud. After a strong second to Nyquist in the Kentucky Derby and a dominant win in the Preakness, Exaggerator was a nonfactor in the Belmont.

Shortly after the horses crossed the finish line in the Belmont Stakes, the skies opened up, and heavy rain fell for a brief period at Belmont. It didn’t last very long, and moisture in the track likely would not have made a difference for Exaggerator, who “was empty,” according to jockey Kent Desormeaux, when he asked the horse to run.

“When I picked him up at the quarter pole to try and go and win the race, there was nothing there,” Desormeaux said. “He did not quicken, and he has a turn of foot … when I turn this guy loose, he pops a wheelie, he takes off so fast, and there was nothing there.”

Exaggerator won the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby in the slop, ran a good second in the Kentucky Derby over a track that had some moisture in it, and then romped to a 3 1/2-length victory in the Preakness in the slop.

“I was hoping to dispel the sloppy-track thing, but you know that’s got to come into play as well,” said Keith Desormeaux, Kent’s brother and the trainer of Exaggerator. “But I think it’s mostly that Belmont’s a deep, sandy surface, and he might have had a little trouble with it.”

Kent Desormeaux said he didn’t believe the surface played a factor in Exaggerator’s subpar performance.

“The track did not get this horse beat,” Desormeaux said.

Instead, Kent Desormeaux felt that his decision to restrain Exaggerator behind a much slower pace than there was in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness may have been the wrong decision.

Exaggerator, breaking from post 11, was sixth in the early stages and about four wide entering the first turn. Gettysburg, as expected, set the pace, running a quarter in 24.09 seconds and a half-mile in 48.48. The pace was three seconds slower than in the Kentucky Derby and two seconds slower than the Preakness.

Exaggerator alternated between fourth and fifth position down the backside and was fifth going to the half-mile pole. Desormeaux said he had “about 10 pounds of pressure on the reins, asking him to wait.”

When the front-runners started to move, Desormeaux decided to wait some more. He said when he let loose of the reins around the turn, he began to worry.

“I released the lines, now I had four pounds of pressure, and they kept opening up on me,” Desormeaux said. “I was praying to God the reins were lying to me because the horse that was keen to progress was not underneath me.”

Desormeaux said he nursed Exaggerator to the quarter pole before he “put him down for a mad drive. I said, ‘Show me your stuff.’ There was nothing there.”

In the final furlong, Desormeaux wrapped up on Exaggerator, and he came home in front of just two horses.

Desormeaux said that in the Derby and Preakness, the pace was much faster, and Exaggerator was going easily without him having to ask him to wait.

For the opening half-mile in the Belmont, Desormeaux said, “We went 15 lengths slower, we were crawling, and his natural speed is 47 and change. In hindsight, I probably would have been better off letting him cruise instead of making him wait. I don’t know what the difference would have been or if there would have been any difference in the outcome.”

Said Keith Desormeaux: “Exaggerator didn’t have the fitness for a mile and a half. It takes a different horse.”

Eli Dawkins More than 1 year ago
that work before the Belmont said it all this horse was done clearly needed a break that's why I threw him out at last minute
Carolyn Tiburzi More than 1 year ago
I saw it...you held him back too long...he wanted to go long before the quarter pole -- you didn't do the right thing ... at least if he lost it would've been better than almost last.  Shame on you.  Lost opportunity.
Robert More than 1 year ago
Why him only.  What were all the others doing. ? Brody's Cause ? Where ?  WHy ? 
Carolyn Tiburzi More than 1 year ago

I saw it...you held him back too long he wanted to go and you didn't let him. 

Ronald Friedman More than 1 year ago
What trainer would've rode a jockey fresh out of rehab without any mounts during the week and on the card as planned.Desormeaux showed that laying up close with a closer into a pace that was not glacial made him eager and caused him to be rank.Exaggerator runs a completely different race with a rider in control of himself.
Vic Stauffer More than 1 year ago
There has never been a jockey with a valid license who would have won on Exaag. Your tactics of ripping Kent are a personal choice your certainly entitled to. 
terjac1 More than 1 year ago

Belmont " stretch run"  is one long mother.

George Tommila More than 1 year ago
Always handicap with an open mind. 
Chuck Berger More than 1 year ago
I had mentioned in prior comments, the race is not run on paper. I virtually eliminated Exaggerator
as the winner after viewing the stretch run of the Preakness. Watch the head on run from the top of the stretch to the finish and you will note how Exaggerator lugs in from the middle of the lane to the rail with Kent whipping him hard left handed. As Eddie Arcaro said,"When a horse lugs in or out, he's trying to tell you something." In other words, "I'm tired or hurting."
Oh, and I had bet Destin in the race. Yet, it doesn't hurt so much as "The Governor" was probably
the best horse. He got stopped on the rail deep stretch.
Wayne Gunter More than 1 year ago
And That's All I have to say about that
Wayne Gunter More than 1 year ago
Bob Costas is a miserable human being. All the stupid questions that he asked the brothers, Both Kent and Keith would Not let him make them miserable? Kent made him look like a fool 3 times and  Keith told him that they were Family and it started with Parents and Especially their Mother in a little town in Louisiana?
ed More than 1 year ago
He just couldn't congratulate Kent on his decision to seek help and turn the page? There always has to be a moral and his almighty opinion. Must be nice to be perfect.
Wayne Gunter More than 1 year ago
I agree with the brothers,but I also thought that Kent did a good job getting him in a good position into the first turn.He was slightly wide but in a position,out of trouble and he looked like a winner and ready to pounce all the way to the3/8 pole. I was happy when Kent gave him a little breather and EX  looked ready to blow them away but he was idling and seemed stuck in sand when Kent asked him for his best. Kent was shaking the reins, but Ex would not go on asDestin  and Creator went on and when Kent knew he was beat he wrapped up on him!   Dammed if you do and dammed if you don't? All I Know IS THE BEST HORSE did not win the Race,but thank GOD Creator beat Destin a nose!!!