09/21/2016 4:44PM

Nyquist, Exaggerator arrive for clash in Pennsylvania Derby

Taylor Ejdys/Equi-Photo
Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist, led by his groom Elias Anaya, arrives on the backside at Parx Racing after his cross-country plane ride from California.

BENSALEM, Pa. - It is no longer a myth that the most accomplished 3-year-olds in the country are running at Parx this weekend as Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist and Preakness winner Exaggerator arrived here Wednesday afternoon for Saturday’s Grade 2, $1.25 million Pennsylvania Derby.

Those two were joined on a cross-country flight by multiple stakes winner Cupid and a handful of other runners entered to run in a quartet of stakes here on Saturday.

Already on the grounds are undefeated champion Songbird and Kentucky Oaks winner Cathryn Sophia, who are squaring off in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Cotillion.

Wednesday’s Tex Sutton flight originated in Southern California, where Nyquist, his stablemate Land Over Sea (Cotillion), Cupid, and two horses trained by Richard Baltas are based.

The flight stopped in Lexington, Ky., where Exaggerator had vanned after training Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs.  The flight arrived at A-B-E Airport in Allentown, Pa., a little before 2 p.m. and the horses arrived on different vans between 3:30 and 4 p.m.

Leandro Mora, the assistant to Doug O’Neil, trainer of Nyquist, said “he’s a cool traveler.”

:: PENNSYLVANIA DERBY: Get PPs, watch Saturday's card live

Nyquist’s victory in the Kentucky Derby made him 8 for 8 in his career. He finished third in the Preakness and fourth in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park before getting a break. When he resumed training, he did so at the San Luis Ray training center, 30 or so miles north of Del Mar.

“He did much better than I expected,” Mora said. “He put on some weight, he’s happier. Let’s hope he’s still got it.”

Mora, then filling in for a suspended O’Neill, was the trainer of record in 2012 when Handsome Mike, the longest price in the field at 19-1, upset Alpha in the Pennsylvania Derby for Paul Reddam, who also owns Nyquist.

After finishing second to Nyquist in the Kentucky Derby, Exaggerator defeated him in the Preakness and Haskell. However, Exaggerator also finished 11th in both the Belmont Stakes and Travers.

Exaggerator had a busy Wednesday morning, galloping at Churchill before vanning to Lexington and flying to Pennsylvania.

“At Lexington, we got on the plane pretty quick. He was eating like he was starving the whole time,” said Julie Clark, assistant to trainer Keith Desormeaux. “He took it all in stride.”

Cupid is a seasoned traveler. His last four races have come at Mountaineer, Indiana Grand, Belmont, and Oaklawn Park. He is coming off victories in the Indiana Derby and, most recently, the West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer.

“Lately, he’s really picked it up from Indiana to Mountaineer,” said Jimmy Barnes, assistant to trainer Bob Baffert. “We’re definitely stepping up but it’s probably the right time to do it.”

Nyquist and Cupid were expected to train Thursday morning while Exaggerator will just have a walk day as is the case for him every Thursday. All three horses will likely visit the paddock during the late morning.