Exaggerator Thrills Brothers In Preakness

Published: May 21, 2016 11:43 pm EDT

Exaggerator turned the tables on previously undefeated Nyquist, providing a thrilling homecoming for brothers Kent and Keith Desormeaux with a commanding three and a half-length triumph in the 141st Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course on Saturday, May 21.

The Keith Desormeaux-trained three-year-old, who finished second behind Nyquist in the Kentucky Derby (G1) two weeks ago at Churchill Downs, was the recipient of a ground-saving ride from jockey Kent Desormeaux to prevail over 10 rivals in the $1.5 million Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.

After losing to Nyquist in their previous four meetings, the 5-2 second betting choice broke through with a dominating performance at the racetrack where his jockey launched his Hall of Fame career nearly 30 years ago and his trainer apprenticed under the late prominent trainer Charles Hadry.

Nyquist, the 7-10 favourite, who had won his previous eight starts including a one and a quarter length score over a closing Exaggerator, set a pressured pace in the 1-3/16 mile classic before fading to third, a nose behind a late-charging runner-up Cherry Wine.

Exaggerator’s upset victory capped a record-breaking day at Pimlico, where a record crowd of 135,256 attended the 14-race program. The previous record was set in 2015, when 131,680 watched American Pharoah win the Preakness on his way to a Triple Crown sweep. Saturday’s handle of $94,127,434 eclipsed the 2005 handle record of $91,028,704.

Exaggerator settled well off the swift pace contested by Uncle Lino and Nyquist along the front stretch and around the first turn. Nyquist maintained a narrow advantage along the backstretch and into the far turn, while Exaggerator advanced quickly along the rail to loom as a threat. Nyquist shook free to lead the field into the homestretch after setting fast fractions over a sloppy track, but Exaggerator was in full stride in the middle of the track after being angled to the outside by Desormeaux and motored on by the favourite with fresh legs.

“I’m just glad I get to walk across this track and take a picture on that side," said trainer Keith Desormeaux. "When you get to take your picture taken on the turf course, you know you’ve done well."

Exaggerator ran 1-3/16 miles in 1:58.31 to earn his fifth victory in 11 starts and the $900,000 winner’s share of the $1.5 million purse. Cherry Wine, a 17-1 longshot who closed from 10th, rallied along the rail to just nip Nyquist at the finish line.

“I’m proud of my horse, proud of the jockey," said Dale Romans on Cherry Wine's second-place finish. "Exaggerator looked great all week and Keith did a good job with him. It’s a special thing, two brothers in a classic like this. It was like the O’Briens [father-son] winning the Breeders’ Cup. That’s the special thing about the sport, it proves it’s a family affair."

"Hats off to Exaggerator and Team Desormeaux. What a great run," said Nyquist's trainer Doug O’Neill. "I didn’t think we could get beat, to be honest with you. Nyquist is such an amazing horse and he still ran a great race. We’ll kind of figure this all out, watch some replays. I didn’t get a chance to talk with Mario [Gutierrez]. Nyquist still ran a huge race.

(With files from Preakness)

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