For the third year in a row, the favorite to win the Triple Crown has won the Kentucky Derby and heads to Baltimore looking to capture the middle jewel and the Black-Eyed Susans at the Preakness Stakes. This year’s Preakness has a different feel to it. Last year, and the 35 before that, we were anxiously awaiting the race to see if the winner at Churchill would be the winner at Pimlico. Now, most thoroughbred racing fans have mixed feelings about the outcome of the race; do we want to see a Triple Crown winner in back to back years or do we want to wait for another Triple Crown winner and let American Pharoah remain alone on his perch of living champions?
The Derby was everything we expected it to be and Nyquist was everything we expected him to be. Nyquist did not jump out to the lead and let Danzing Candy set the pace for the race. Mario Gutierrez knew that the Derby had not seen a wire-to-wire winner since 2002 when War Emblem accomplished the feat. Gutierrez knew he had history on his side and did not let Danzing Candy’s quick start throw him off of his race. Nyquist did not capture the lead until the horses turned for the home-stretch but once he did, he left no doubt that he was the best horse in that race. Exaggerator made a great push at the end, but fell short of the win, 1 ¼ lengths to be exact. The race was fast-paced and ended up being the 13th fastest Kentucky Derby of all time. The race also saw the top four favorites finish in order, a rarity in the sport (Nyquist: 2-1, Exaggerator: 5-1, Gun Runner: 10-1, and Mohaymen: 11-1).
With the Preakness field still in flux and the post position draw tonight at 5:00pm, we still do not know who Nyquist’s biggest challengers will be. The field appears to consist of Nyquist and ten competitors. Nyquist is currently favored with odds of 10-19 (all odds provided by Sportsbook.ag). Nyquist will not be looking to give anyone a big payday on Saturday except himself. As of right now, it appears that Exaggerator will take another shot at Nyquist and face off with him for the third time in a Graded Stakes race. The colt will enter the race with the best odds to derail Nyquist’s bid for the Triple Crown. Exaggerator has now been within 1 ½ lengths of Nyquist in his last two races against the Derby champion. The Desormeaux Brothers will look to build on their past two performances and finally find a way to beat Nyquist. Exaggerator will look to come off the lead and close out the race strongly, giving Nyquist everything he’s got. Exaggerator is currently at 7-2 odds to win the Preakness.
The Preakness also brings many new challenges for the Derby winner, including new faces and fresh legs. One of those new faces will be Stradivari, who is trained by Todd Pletcher. Pletcher is a very accomplished thoroughbred trainer, having the Eclipse Awards Trainer of the Year from 2004 to 2007 and again in 2010, 2013, and 2014. Pletcher may also be known for his colt, Uncle Mo, from back in 2011 when he was the hopeful to win the Kentucky Derby, but fell ill and scratched the day before the race. Uncle Mo is also ironically the sire of this year’s Triple Crown hopeful, Nyquist. Stradivari will be jockeyed by John Velazquez, who will be looking to stand in the Preakness Stakes’ winner’s circle for the first time in his Hall of Fame career. Velazquez’s best finish at the Preakness came in 2011 when he rode Animal Kingdom to a second place finish. Stradivari is seen as a late bloomer within the 3-year-old crowd, only having three career starts. The colt has been very impressive in his last two starts, winning by lengths of 11 ¼ and 14 ½. Stradivari will look to continue his recent success and pull off the upset. He currently sits at 13-2 odds to be standing in the winner’s circle.
Another new competitor looking to knock off Nyquist is Collected. Collected is led by none other than, Bob Baffert. This horse is believed to be one of Baffert’s better three-year-olds and Baffert has even gone as far as to say that Collected should have been the one running in the Kentucky Derby over Mor Spirit. Baffert will now look to play the role of spoiler and prevent Nyquist from becoming the next Triple Crown champion. Collected will be rode by Javier Castellano, an Eclipse Award winner for Outstanding Jockey for the past three consecutive years. Castellano had a taste of Preakness glory back in 2006 when he rode Bernardini to victory. Collected does not have the impressive resume as some of the other recent Baffert horses, but he has crossed the finish line first in four of his six starts. Collected will look to prove he is worthy of Grade 1 Stakes class and upset Nyquist. He is currently at 15-1 odds to take home the Black-Eyed Susans.
One other horse to pay attention to come Saturday is Uncle Lino. Uncle Lino is trained by Gary Sherlock and ridden by Fernando Perez. He also happens to be a sibling of Nyquist, both of whom were sired by Uncle Mo. This colt has yet to face off against his brother in any races and will look to gain an edge in the sibling rivalry. Uncle Lino won his last race at the California Chrome Stakes and finished third in the Santa Anita Derby, losing only to Exaggerator and Mor Spirit. This horse will look to set the pace after having set a track record at the California Chrome Stakes. The shorter track distance of 1 3/16 could play into his favor. Uncle Lino currently sits at 25-1 odds.
We will not know for sure who stays in this race until later tonight and we will not know where Nyquist will be positioned at the starting gate. We do know that Nyquist will be the favorite and we know he will have his work cut-out for him if he wants a shot at the Triple Crown. Nyquist will be looking to get one step closer to the Triple Crown, Exaggerator will be looking to finally break through and get the better of Nyquist, Collected will be looking to play spoiler for Baffert and keep Nyquist from joining American Pharoah, and Uncle Lino will be looking to get an edge over Nyquist in the sibling rivalry. While the race won’t be short of competition, all signs are pointing to another showdown between Nyquist and Exaggerator.
My heart, again, tells me to take Baffert and his horse, Collected. We just saw a Triple Crown and need to continue to let the glory of American Pharoah live on. My head, however, tells me that this race will belong to Nyquist. By the time Saturday afternoon comes, Nyquist will have had plenty of time to plan his next move and prepare himself to take on every challenge he faces. The crowd will once again go hush and we will all await Nyquist’s next step towards Triple Crown glory.
They’re off in the Preakness Stakes…
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