As Jimmy Buffett (a fellow horse owner, btw) once sang -- mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa for tossing Exaggerator and Mor Spirit in the KY Derby. It's truly ignorant to ever toss a legitimate closer in The Derby as you never know how the pace will turn out. Ice Box should have taught me this painful lesson years ago. I offer a hearty congratulations to Exaggerator for not only proving clearly second best in The Derby, but for wining the Preakness Stakes convincingly.
While my top 3 picks of Creator (horrible trip 13th), Gun Runner (3rd) and Mohaymen (4th) left me (and others) shutout on Derby day, the Preakness outcome illustrated why you generally do not want to accept a heavy favorite in this triple crown series with huge payoff possibilities when the best horse does not always win. Nyquist was a convincing winner in The Derby and with his speedy style seemed a lock for the Pimlico oval. But the rogue Awesome Speed and jockey Jevian Toledo sandwiched him between Uncle Lino the first time through the stretch and again approaching the far turn and that was his undoing by the end of the 1 3/16ths race. In my opinion, the outside flanking by Toledo took more away from Nyquist than the fractions, as the 22.38, 46.56, 1.11.97 split times of the Preakness were on the whole slower than 22.58, 45.72, 1.10.40 from The Derby when Nyquist was able to spurt clear at a slightly greater distance.
I've gone from trying to beat Nyquist unsuccessfully to hoping his fever is just a minor blip and would love to see him in the Belmont Stakes starting gate where you'll likely get value odds for the first time in this triple crown series. And a tip of the cap to both trainers O'Neill and Desormeaux for respectfully playing up this rare 3YO rivalry by showing up at the biggest races trying to prove their dominance. What a great marketing tool for racing and I'm sure the NYRA is equally appreciative.
Finally, kudos to all those in attendance at Pimlico who shattered all kinds of records in spite of the rain soaked day at Old Hilltop. I look forward to my return for next year's race to get my Preak' on!
The Belmont is shaping up as a very bettable race with a handful of serious Derby horses sitting out the Preakness to target Big Sandy as well as the Preakness top 3 finishers.