EXAGGERATOR IS WHAT’S RIGHT WITH RACING
When Exaggerator rolled to the biggest win of his career in the 141st running of the Preakness, it reminded us all just how tough this Triple Crown stuff is. Is it bad that we will not be running for the Crown in the Belmont? Well, after a little deliberation, I think Exaggerator’s win proves why this sport is fantastic.
In true confession, I was a Nyquist guy. Unbeaten coming in and full of run, I thought he was the one. Being an ambassador of the sport, I understand superstars are good. Joe Sportsfan does not follow the sport closely enough to recognize the depth of talent and degree of difficulty. Therefor, he needs a star to hang on to (like American Pharoah) because he does not always realize parity and unpredictability can make any sport really exciting (NCAA basketball tournament). If Joe were to do a little simple head scratching, he would understand the outcome of Preakness 141 should help build the sport in the eyes of most.
The fact Exaggerator had been beaten by Nyquist in each of their four previous meetings makes the Keith Desormeaux trained son of Curlin a horse many can identify with. He is the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers, the 1972 Los Angeles Lakers, and the 2004 Boston Red Sox. Those teams had all fallen on several occasions, but refused to quit. Holding onto the values that have made America great, these teams fought the daily battles like most people do, persevered, and refused to quit. Desormeaux believed in his process and had faith in his horse. A big performance in the Santa Anita Derby win and a fast closing second in the Kentucky Derby told the crafty Cajun his athlete was primed. A huge performance by Exaggerator and a near perfect ride by his brother and jockey Kent rewarded the faith displayed by Desormeaux. That is special stuff no matter which way you slice it!
Now, of course the Belmont Stakes wanted to see a horse running for the Triple Crown because it adds to the buzz. But there is still plenty to be excited about for the “test of a champion”. Exaggerator can attempt to become the first horse since Afleet Alex in 2005 to win both the Preakness and Belmont. It will not be easy, because as is the case with most sports, the competition is fierce. Several Kentucky Derby horses with throw their hat back into the ring, the fast closing second place Preakness runner Cherry Wine will be there, and of course some new shooters from New York will likely try as well. So, as is the case with all these “big” races, nothing will be a given for Exaggerator.
So in closing, what do we take out of the Preakness? Nyquist is a very, very good horse, but so is Exaggerator. Did Nyquist fall victim to being a major part of the fastest opening quarter mile (22.38) in the 141-year history of the race, or was it just Exaggerator’s day? Opinions will fly on that like Desormeaux’s horse did to finish 3 ½ lengths ahead of everyone else. Bottom line is we have a real rivalry now since both have won against each other. We can only hope they meet again as the summer unfolds. The Triple Crown races are the most recognized in general, but the sport has so much more to offer. Exaggerator’s brilliant performance is proof positive there is major competition in Thoroughbred racing and that is only a good thing.