05/17/2016 1:48PM

Preakness: Probable off track no worry for O'Neill

Barbara D. Livingston
With an inch of rain possible on Saturday, Nyquist may run over a sloppy or muddy track for the first time in the Preakness.

BALTIMORE - The announced defection of Gun Runner from Saturday’s 141st Preakness Stakes put the focus even more on the rematch between Kentucky Derby one-two finishers Nyquist and Exaggerator in the second leg of the Triple Crown.

Tuesday morning, the focus also turned to the weather. Light rain that fell at Pimlico in the morning prompted Doug O’Neill, trainer of Nyquist, and Keith Desormeaux, conditioner of Exaggerator, to move up the scheduled training sessions for their horses.

Weather.com is calling for a 100 percent chance of rain Saturday with as much as an inch possible. Though Exaggerator has won two graded stakes on wet tracks, including the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, Desormeaux was downplaying the perceived advantage his horse may have over Nyquist.

“Running in the mud is kind of like running on the turf,” said Desormeaux, who added that he didn’t trust the forecast four days out. “It mainly depends on pedigree, and Nyquist has just as much mud pedigree as Exaggerator, so it’s not like we’re going to be at an advantage, I don’t think.”

O’Neill certainly doesn’t see an off track as a disadvantage to Nyquist, who won the Florida Derby over a wet track labeled good. Also, there was moisture in the Churchill Downs main track from showers that fell 90 minutes before the race.

“I don’t think it’ll affect him in a negative way,” O’Neill said. “You got to be sure-footed to do what he’s done at all the different tracks. We got a wet track there at Gulfstream. That didn’t seem to affect him in a negative way, so I don't see it as a negative.

“Rain or shine, as long as he’s doing well we got a real good chance.”

Nyquist has given every indication that he continues to do well since his 1 1/4-length victory over Exaggerator in the Kentucky Derby, which kept him unbeaten in eight career starts.

With rain scheduled Tuesday morning, O’Neill moved Nyquist’s training session to 6:10 a.m. from 8:30. Nyquist galloped a strong mile over a dry Pimlico track. Daily Racing Form clocked Nyquist a mile in 2:09.37, with a final three-eighths in 43.03 seconds. He appeared very relaxed all the way around.

"He's a lot more settled here than Churchill," said O'Neill, who watched Nyquist's gallop from the outside porch on Pimlico’s press box level. "As soon as he left the pony [at Churchill], he'd want to blast off."

About 90 minutes later, O’Neill was back on that porch, where he watched Exaggerator gallop 1 1/4 miles, showing good energy throughout.

“He’s so darn consistent,” O’Neill said of Exaggerator. “He’s a big, good-looking horse. He always carries his flesh really well. He just shows up every race. As it looks like we might get some rain Saturday, Team Exaggerator is high-fiving.”

:: PREAKNESS: Buy pps, watch Saturday's card live

Actually, where Desormeaux hopes Exaggerator has an advantage over Nyquist is his ability to recover quickly from his races. It’s a point the colt drove home to his trainer Tuesday morning in his gallop.

“I knew right after the Derby we would be probable for the Preakness because I know how he recovers,” Desormeaux said. “He’s like a 15-year-old kid that plays pick-up basketball in the park every day. It would kill an adult – you’d have to sleep it off for a week - but that kid is back the next day. He’s youthful, he’s limber, he’s sound.”

Good news for Abiding Star, Parx

Abiding Star, winner of five straight races including the Parx Derby on May 7, worked a half-mile in 50 seconds at Parx Tuesday.

Trainer Ned Allard said the horse went “dynamite.”

Better news came later in the day when a quarantine placed at Parx since early April due to an equine herpesvirus outbreak was lifted, meaning horses may now travel in and out of the Bensalem, Pa., track.

Tuesday morning, prior to the quarantine being lifted, Allard had said Abiding Star would ship here on Thursday morning. Joining him will be Always Sunshine, who will run in Saturday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Maryland Sprint Stakes.

Pimlico had previously announced provisions to allow those horses to train at 5 a.m. Friday and Saturday, but not with other horses stabled on the grounds.

* On Tuesday, trainer Steve Asmussen officially declared Kentucky Derby third-place finisher Gun Runner from the Preakness. While the horse is fine physically, Asmussen said the focus for Gun Runner will be on “a serious summer of 3-year-old races."

"He’s been in tremendous physical condition going into the Derby and coming out of it," Asmussen said, "and we expect for him to continue to physically develop.”

* With Gun Runner out, his jockey Florent Geroux has picked up the mount on the maiden Laoban. Ricardo Santana Jr., whom trainer Eric Guillot had last week named on Laoban, is riding at Churchill on Saturday.

Laoban, Collected and Uncle Lino were scheduled to arrive at Pimlico on Tuesday afternoon on a flight that originated in Southern California and picked up horses in Kentucky.

* Fellowship, the third-place finisher in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream and fourth in the Pat Day Mile at Churchill, arrived at Pimlico around 4:45 a.m. on Tuesday, along with 10 other Mark Casse-trained runners. Those horses simply walked the shed row Tuesday morning.

* Awesome Speed, the Federico Tesco winner, worked a half-mile in 47.40 seconds Tuesday at the Colts Neck training center in New Jersey.

Potential Preakness Starters
Horse Trainer Jockey Last Race, Finish
Abiding Star Ned Allard J.D. Acosta Parx Derby, 1st
Awesome Speed Alan Goldberg Jevian Toledo Federico Tesio, 1st
Cherry Wine Dale Romans Corey Lanerie Blue Grass, 3rd
Collected Bob Baffert Javier Castellano Lexington, 1st
Exaggerator Keith Desormeaux Kent Desormeaux Ky. Derby, 2nd
Fellowship Mark Casse Jose Lezcano Pat Day Mile, 4th
Lani Mikio Matsunaga Yutaka Take Ky. Derby, 9th
Laoban Eric Guillot Florent Geroux Blue Grass, 4th
Nyquist Doug O'Neill Mario Gutierrez Ky. Derby, 1st
Stradivari Todd Pletcher John Velazquez Kee. alw., 1st
Uncle Lino Gary Sherlock Fernando Perez Ca. Chrome, 1st


Angelo Annunziata More than 1 year ago
This is why some racetracks have the poly kind of track.The surface of a track means alot. I seen the S.A.DERBY. They were moving.Its exciting watching a sloppy track race.I didn't see an advantage for any of the top 3 horses in that race.The better horse won.Exagerator

RaceTote More than 1 year ago
An off track can have tremendous impact on the outcome of any race. Most tracks have an area off the rail much deeper and more difficult to push through than along the rail or out around seven wide. During wet conditions an experienced rider can make a tremendous difference in the outcome. 
RaceTote More than 1 year ago
Information of Paramount importance: official drink of the Preakness Stakes is the Black-Eyed Susan. Now you know how to place your wagers. Especially after your twelve drink, if you can still walk. 
Mark W. More than 1 year ago
Lani seems to love the Pimlico surface.
Molly Julia More than 1 year ago
Lani Races Without Lasix?
Molly Julia More than 1 year ago
Lani Races Without Lasix?
Mark More than 1 year ago
When you are slow, you are slow.  Practice doesn't count.
Ann Maree More than 1 year ago
Thanks for sharing video interviews and jogs by Nyquist a Exaggerator
Jeff Richardson More than 1 year ago
Check out this fun Preakness preview !  https://youtu.be/g-_eD6OTy_U
RaceTote More than 1 year ago
Those Traveling to Baltimore should arrive at airports early to compensate for security delays. O'Hsir asked travelers to arrive three hours ahead of scheduled departures. 
Debra Wardhaugh More than 1 year ago
Yes, TSA through Dept. of Homeland Security, had requested 4,000 additional agents to handle the anticipated travel load.  Bill went through Congress.  What did they do?  Earmarked the funds for different uses.  Look it up!  As a result, TSA got minor percentage of what they requested. Other interests got the money. Hence, the long lines.  Don't blame TSA.  Blame your Congress.
Molly Julia More than 1 year ago
Racetote How About The Rain All Day Saturday?
RaceTote More than 1 year ago

 It's Unfortunate Gun Runner is out, and I had hoped for a dry track. Such is life (Ned Kelly, 1881), we all have our bad days. 
 Saturday's possible inch of rain could create a sloppy track, and we're all anticipating the uncertainty added to the equation. If Nyquist doesn't slip like Firing Line did last year exoting the gate, quickly makes his way to the rail, and experiences a good trip, then we'll all say "a little rain didn't matter," and It's on to Belmomt, New York. God speed Nyquist. 
 However, we shouldn't kid ourselves. Personally,  I'm worried sick, and to
Make things even more unpredictable, Todd Pletcher threw Stradivari into the mix. Well, it's a horse race not a bank
loan. There's always risk. That's what makes it so much fun. Ether way, I wouldn't miss this race for anything on earth. I can't wait until the doors open Saturday morning, I'll be running to make my wager.
Jeff Richardson More than 1 year ago
Matt Dougherty More than 1 year ago
What are you worried about?  Your gonna bet Nyquist at 2-5?  You win $8 on a $20 bet...
Bruce Epstein More than 1 year ago
Matt you are so correct, those who bet 2-5 shots are just crazy.
Molly Julia More than 1 year ago
Racetote - Nyquist Loves The Slop Watch he Derby?