EXAGGERATOR TRIES AGAIN AND NINE OTHERS SIGN ON TO TRY AND FORECHECK AND ICE NYQUIST
On Saturday Nyquist will look to become the third straight 3-year old to head to Belmont with the Triple Crown on the line. Last year American Pharoah got it done and in 2014 California Chrome won the Derby and Preakness before failing in the Belmont.
All things being equal and all eleven combatants running to what their history so far dictates, Nyquist will head to New York with a Triple Crown on the line. However, they still need to run the race...let's take a look at the field.
CHERRY WINE (20-1) - One of two that show up here after not getting off the AE list for the Derby (Laoban is the other) the Paddy O'Prado colt has made a habit of running on for minor awards. In both the Rebel (4th) and the Blue grass (3rd) he did make up some ground late and was well-supported enough at the windows to indicate he has believers. However, the Dale Romans trainee has only worked twice (each a 5 furlong breeze) since the April 9 Blue Grass and in the Rebel he was behind Whitmore and Creator, neither of whom were in the Derby zip code and in the Blue Grass behind Brody's cause and My Man Sam, another two Derby also rans. In addition, his speed numbers don't come close to what is needed at the level. He'll need a big move forward.
UNCLE LINO (20-1) - Another son of the precocious first year sire Uncle Mo, there are four of them in the race, he turned in his by far best speed figure in winning the California Chrome Stakes at Santa Anita three weeks ago. The possibility of bounce is on the surface but he must also makes up the 8 ½ lengths and 7 ½ lengths he finished behind Exaggerator in the Grade II San Felipe and Grade I Santa Anita Derby prior to beating his lesser opponents in the California Chrome. Trainer Gary Sherlock is a nominal 14% with Graded Stakes runner but he has an astounding +14.40 R.(.I. with that designation so despite his need to move forward against the best, would it be a stretch to consider that he might grab a piece.
NYQUIST (3/5) - The Derby winner and undefeated colt couldn't have drawn a better post to suit his high cruising and engagement oriented speed. At this point it would border on sacrilege to discuss anything. He is the horse to beat.
AWESOME SPEED (30-1) - A winner of the Federico Tesio at laurel in his last the son of Awesome Again has utilized his good tactical speed to win 4 of 6 in his career. He turned in a terrific effort three back when he wired the 100K Mucho Macho man Stakes at Gulfstream in his 2016 debut. Two back he was bumped at the start in the Grade II Fountain of Youth and finished 4th behind Derby 4th place runner Mohaymen and Fellowship, who he'll see again in the Preakness. After a short break and some good works he turned in the good Tesio effort. Whether he measures up class wise or not remains to be seen but the Alan Goldberg (24% with Stakes runners) trainee doesn't lack for win knowledge, speed and heart.
EXAGGERATOR (3-1) - He's chased Nyquist four times and followed him under the wire in each. Of course in the San Vicente at Santa Anita and in the Kentucky Derby he was much closer than he was as a juvenile. So the question becomes, after his two seconds and his stirring win in the Santa Anita derby what does he do and Nyquist not do in order to reverse positions. The PP's say Nyquist and he are lengths above the rest so all he has to do is run his race, especially since he figures to be aided by the projected off going, and hope for the best. The colt has jogged and galloped since the Derby and the brother team of trainer Keith and jockey Kent Desormeaux remain loose.
LANI (30-1) - Heading into the Kentucky Derby, those that had him on the Pro side of the ledger loved his breeding, his internationally engaged winning connections and his hard earned win in the UAE Derby after going to his nose at the start. Those who placed him on the Con side pointed out the past Desert to the Derby failures, his difficulty in workouts and on the track and his light schedule prior to the race. In the derby he met the standards of both. He was away dead last, swung very wide entering the stretch and as usual was a handful. By the same token he was running on well at the end and one can see that he is not a quitter. You have to like the confidence of his usually very close to the vet connections so the verdict is still out.
COLLECTED (10-1) - With the attention paid to Nyquist and Exaggerator and the "buzz" behind Stradivari and to a degree Uncle Lino after his big California Chrome Stakes number and even Lani it is possible that this Bob Baffert trained and Javier Castellano ridden son of City Zip could go off as the fourth or fifth favorite. If not for the New Mexico quarantine that took the points granting Sunland Derby off the list, this guy, by virtue of winning the substitute stakes at Sunland, would have qualified for the Derby. Baffert has had him at CD since he went from the New Mexico win to a 4 length blowout of the Lexington filed and the colt has turned in nothing short of brilliant works...the last two at 7 furlongs. He might belong with the bet. And with the track figuring to be sloppy or muddy on Saturday one has to think...when was the last time a horse that ran in New Mexico won over an off track in a Triple Crown Race? We'll let you Mine That...answer.
LAOBAN (30-1) - The second of the two runners (Cherry Wine the other) who watched from the outside when not able to get into the Derby from the AE list. The Eric Guillot trained son of Uncle Mo is being sent out by, to say the least. Adventurous connections. Still a maiden after 5 career starts he can at least claim a second behind Shagaf in the Grade III Gotham at Aqueduct, but that one was over-matched and eased in the Derby and can claim a fourth in the Blue Grass, although he was easily defeated by Brody's Cause and My Man Sam who were derby non-contenders and Cherry Wine, who was finishing well while he was retreating. Tough to consider.
ABIDING STAR (30-1) - The speedy son of Uncle Mo...that's right, yet another son of prolific first year sire Uncle Mo (Nyquist. Uncle Lino, Laoban are the others) was winless in the first five starts of his career and has now won five straight since. Those 5 wins have been at 4 different distances, over sloppy, good and fast tracks and every one was a wire-to-wire job. Is he fast enough to be part of the pace? Probably. Does he have the class to make the jump? That is the question, but you can't blame trainer Edward Allard for trying and jockey J D Acosta makes his first Triple Crown race try ever.
FELLOWSHIP (30-1) - The son of Awesome Of Course is a colt hat you would consider (based on his breeding) to be no more than a mile speed horse. You might be right. He was third behind Mohaymen in the Holy Bull, third behind Mohaymen in the Fountain Of Youth and third behind Nyquist in the Florida derby. He moved to the Mark Casse barn after the Florida derby and the conditioner tried to shorten him up in the pat day Mile on the derby undercard. He flashed good speed and was caught 7 wide but still finished respectively. Now he returns to two turns and can be expected to chase in mid-pack. Whether he is outrun throughout or manages to outlast early faders for a 3rd or4th place finish remains to be seen. Jose Lezcano retains the mount.
STRATIVARI (8-1) - Maybe it's because it's Pletcher and Velazquez or maybe it's because the last two wins in this son of Medaglia D'Oro's three race career are by a combined 25 lengths. Whatever the reasons he has become the "buzz" horse of the Preakness and the Pimlico ML maker listed him as the third favorite at 8-1. His 5 furlong drill last Friday at Belmont indicated that he is still on his toes and he certainly appears to have the kind of speed that will mix it up with a few of the other front running types signed on. He is bred to go long and might indeed be this good but he is just removed from an entry level allowance win. Those backing him might be rewarded, but there was another like him last year by the name of Bodhisattva and that one checked in last. The bottom line is he might run to the buzz but be advised you are going to take shorter odds than you should.
All things being equal it is Nyquist's race to lose. After that there are all sorts of possibilities.