05/18/2016 5:39PM

Nyquist draws post 3, will face 10 in Preakness Stakes

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Kelsey Danner
Nyquist holds off Exaggerator to win the Kentucky Derby.

BALTIMORE – Nyquist, the Kentucky Derby winner, drew post 3 when a field of 11 was assigned their stalls Wednesday night for the 141st Preakness Stakes on Saturday at Pimlico.

Nyquist has won all eight of his starts and will be a prohibitive favorite in the Preakness. Both Mike Watchmaker, Daily Racing Form’s national handicapper, and Keith Feustle, who makes the line at Pimlico, installed Nyquist as the odds-on favorite at 3-5. If that holds, it will mark the fourth time that Nyquist has been odds-on.

Exaggerator, who finished second in the Derby and looms as the main rival again for Nyquist, drew post 5. He is 7-2 on Watchmaker’s line and 3-1 on Feustle’s line. Both Watchmaker and Feustle have Stradivari the race’s third choice at 8-1.

There were no surprises at entry time, as the 11 earmarked as definite for the race on Tuesday were the ones entered.

From the rail out, the field lines up as follows: Cherry Wine, Uncle Lino, Nyquist, Awesome Speed, Exaggerator, Lani, Collected, Laoban, Abiding Star, Fellowship, and Stradivari.

Of the 11, only Nyquist, Exaggerator, and Lani – ninth in the Derby – ran in the first leg of the Triple Crown. The other eight entrants skipped the Derby to run here.

Of particular interest is that there are speed horses on either side of Nyquist, so it will be interesting to see if Nyquist is sent away from the gate or if jockey Mario Gutierrez elects to sit just off the leaders, as he did in the Derby.

“With his speed, post position is not as important,” said Doug O’Neill, who trains Nyquist. “It’s in Mario’s hands. We have a lot of faith in him.”

O’Neill is seeking his second Preakness win, having won it four years ago with I’ll Have Another, who also won the 2012 Derby.

By contrast, last year’s Derby-winning trainer is only a character actor this year.

As the colt Collected made his way back to the stakes barn at Pimlico on Wednesday morning, his trainer, Bob Baffert, came walking up, trailed by a media throng of exactly one, a journalist who is working on a book on Baffert. It’s a far cry from last year, when he had brought in the popular American Pharoah following a Derby win, along with Dortmund.

“Different feel?” Baffert said, responding to a question. He looked around. His media throng had doubled.

He’s not bothered by it. More like bemused. Cool, calm, and Collected. Baffert knows he’s not playing with the strongest hand this year.

“Last year, I just stepped back and watched – let’s see what you got now, boy,” he said of American Pharoah.

“Nyquist is a really good horse,” Baffert said. “Eight wins in a row. It’s like with California Chrome. After he won the Derby, people went, ‘Oh, he is for real.’ He has a winning attitude. He reminds me of Smarty Jones. Explosive. He ran a pretty fast Derby. He kept running. He was pretty impressive.”

Baffert pointed Collected to the Preakness after his victory in the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 16. Collected would not have had enough points to make the 20-horse Derby field anyway, but Baffert had decided to keep him out of the Derby following a fourth-place finish in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn on Feb. 15.

Collected has won two straight since the Southwest, having captured the Sunland Festival of Racing – this year’s substitute for the Sunland Derby – prior to the Lexington.

“He’s getting better,” Baffert said. “I think campaigning him like that helped him get better. He’s been hanging on the lower branches.”

Baffert has won the Preakness six times, including with all four of his Derby winners – Silver Charm, Real Quiet, War Emblem, and American Pharoah. Those six wins – from just 17 starters – tie him for second with D. Wayne Lukas for the most Preakness wins among trainers. They trail only R.W. Walden, who won the Preakness seven times between 1875 – the third running of the Preakness – and 1888.

Baffert’s record in the Preakness with horses who skipped the Derby is not as strong. Of his 17 prior Preakness starters, only three – Senor Swinger in 2003, Govenor Charlie in 2014, and Bayern in 2014 – did not run in the Derby, and the best any of them has done is a fifth by Senor Swinger.

“I think he’ll step up,” Baffert said of Collected. “I think he’ll be very competitive. I felt like he deserved a chance, the way he ran last time. He brings it every time.”

Collected arrived here on Tuesday, as did Baffert, who on Wednesday morning was beginning to recover from a post-Derby cold that was at its worst last weekend.

Laoban also arrived on Tuesday, traveling with Collected from Kentucky. Laoban has a patch on the inside of a hoof, which trainer Eric Guillot said was needed after Laoban stepped on himself and tore off a shoe. Laoban was entered as blinkers off for the Preakness.

Uncle Lino was on a flight that began early Tuesday in California and stopped in Kentucky to pick up Collected and Laoban. Because of the length of the trip, Uncle Lino merely walked the shed row at the stakes barn Wednesday.

Nyquist and Exaggerator have been here longer than any Preakness entrants, more than a week in the case of Nyquist. He jogged two miles Wednesday with exercise rider Jonny Garcia, alongside a pony ridden by assistant Jack Sisterson.

“Very nice, papa,” Garcia said to O’Neill upon returning to the barn.

At Belmont Park, Lani was officially timed in 1:01.50 for a five-furlong work Wednesday. He was slated to be sent by van to Pimlico on Thursday.

All Preakness horses were required to be on the grounds by noon Thursday.

The Preakness field, in post position order, with riders and morning-line odds:
1. Cherry Wine, C. Lanerie, 20-1
2. Uncle Lino, F. Perez, 20-1
3. Nyquist, M. Guttierez, 3-5
4. Awesome Speed, J. Toledo, 30-1
5. Exaggerator, K. Desormeaux, 3-1
6. Lani, Y. Take, 30-1
7. Collected, J. Castellano, 10-1
8. Laoban, F. Geroux, 30-1
9. Abiding Star, J.D. Acosta, 30-1
10. Fellowship, J. Lezcano, 30-1
11. Stradivari, J. Velazquez, 8-1