Nyquist won’t run in the Belmont Stakes as he recovers from an illness. After the Kentucky Derby, it looked like he might dominate the three year old class. Now it could be Exaggerator ruling the roost. With Nyquist sidelined the Belmont is his race to lose. His running style is perfect for the 1 1/2 mile race and the Belmont Park track. Should he win that consider what he’s done–he’s won three of his last four races including the Preakness, Santa Anita Derby and the Belmont. That’s a pretty impressive resume for any three year old.
Exaggerator’s trainer (Keith Desormeaux) and jockey (brother Kent Desormeaux) had the perfect strategy which was even more perfect after they saw Nyquist and Uncle Lino trying to run away from everyone else. Jockey Desormeaux demonstrated the power of experienced as he explained this nuanced bit of strategy after the race: “I had a dream trip today. I was on the fence and they all stayed wide. These turns, you want to paint the fence.”
Credit to Nyquist’s trainer Doug O’Neill. Although he was understandably disappointed after the race he didn’t ‘throw his jockey under the bus’ which is becoming all too common. Instead, he praised Mario Guttierez and fell on the grenade himself: “I just really wanted to see a good, clean trip and trouble free. I think Mario did a wonderful job with that. He didn’t bring it today and more than anything Exaggerator just ran a monstrous race. We thought we had the best horse and wanted to ride him like the best horse and not try to get too cute and get perfect positioning. Him going fast early was really my idea, thinking ‘he’s the best horse, take it to them.’”
Nyquist left his energy in the first three quarters of a mile and the fact he could have been sick sure didn’t help things. Nyquist spiked a fever of 102 degrees on the Sunday after the race. He eventually tested positive for a high white blood cell count and is being treated for a possible infection. This suggests that Nyquist might not have been 100% for the race and given the nature of his illness it would have impacted his energy and stamina.
And finally, the off track. Exaggerator dominated the track at Santa Anita during the Santa Anita Derby while the rest of the field struggled with the slop. He had no problem on the Pimlico track for the Preakness. Nyquist is competent in the mud and slop but Exaggerator seems to love it. He’s now 3-1-0 on an ‘off track’, all in graded stakes races.