Exaggerator punched his ticket for the Kentucky Derby on Saturday as he ran away from the field in a rainy and sloppy Santa Anita Derby. He becomes only the sixth Santa Anita Derby winner on an ‘off’ track (it was listed as ‘sloppy, sealed’) and his acumen for racing in bad weather could make him a very attractive horse for Kentucky Derby bettors. The weather in Kentucky in early May is famously unpredictable and a horse with a proven ability to run in rain and slop is always attractive to betting enthusiasts.
Last month, Exaggerator finished third in the San Felipe behind Danzing Candy and Mor Spirit but on Saturday they didn’t have anything for him. Exaggerator won the Grade 1, $1 million race by 6 3/4 lengths. Mor Spirit is definitely heading to the Kentucky Derby and Danzing Candy is a likely entrant as well though his connections have yet to make it official. Mor Spirit finished second in the Santa Anita Derby 2 1/4 lengths in front of Uncle Lino. Danzing Candy was relegated to fourth place–he set a brisk pace early on but faded badly at the finish. Diplodocus was fifth followed by Denman’s Call, Smokey Image, and Iron Rob. Dressed in Hermes and Rare Candy were scratched making for an eight horse field. Exaggerator earns 100 Kentucky Derby qualification points for his win, Mor Spirit 40, Uncle Lino 20 and Danzing Candy 10.
Trainer Keith Desormeaux–who’ll head to Kentucky with his brother, jockey Kent Desormeaux riding Exaggerator–didn’t have any bold predictions when asked if he had any new tricks up his sleeve for his next battle against Nyquist: “Nothing. We’ve tried him [four] times. I respect Nyquist. We’ll have fun trying.” Exaggerator has lost to Nyquist in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and February’s Grade 2 San Vincente Stakes. Exaggerator was also in the field for Nyquist’s debut win, a MSW at Santa Anita last June.
Desormeaux said he was relieved after Exaggerator’s trip in the San Felipe–it looked like he was in a position to contend for the victory late but he just ‘didn’t fire’. He avoided the obvious temptation to change tactics and stuck with what had worked in the past.