There is only one question worth asking in the Preakness – can Exaggerator turn the tables on Nyquist? And while you’re not supposed to answer a question with a question, I’d answer, what scenario can you imagine that will compromise Nyquist enough to set up the race for a closer like Exaggerator?
There are plenty of speed horses to challenge Nyquist – Uncle Lino, Awesome Speed, Collected, Laoban and Abiding Star all look like they would prefer running toward the front. But Nyquist has proven he doesn’t need the lead to win and from the three post he should get whatever position Mario Guttierez decides works the best. Nyquist proved he could go on first class fractions in the Derby and still have plenty left to finish.
How about a wet track compromising the favorite? Well, he’s 1 for 1 on a wet track so it is hard to imagine that will be his undoing.
With all the speed Exaggerator should find himself in a perfect position turning for home, and he just needs to stay clear of any traffic. If you believe he’ll be good enough this time you’ll likely get a fair price. But I expect that any potential win bet will stay in my pocket this day.
1 Cherry Wine. He has a win in an OC$75K NW1X at GP and an in the money finish in the Blue Grass at KEE. He’s one of the horses that expects to do his best running late, but I’m not seeing him making a real impact. 30-1
2 Uncle Lino. He has one thing definitely in his favor. He comes here from SoCal where he faced the better horses on the Derby trail. He should show speed, and if he needs to lead there’s a good chance he’ll get buried late. I would put him at the end of the verticals. 15-1
3 Nyquist. What possible negative could you come up with on Nyquist? He’s handled the distance that many people questioned. He’s run on rock hard and sticky tracks. He’s won on the front and from off the pace. He’s got nothing but graded wins after breaking his maiden. You can take a flyer with another horse, but in my opinion it is exactly that – a flyer. 4/5
4 Awesome Speed. Awesome Speed is the “local horse,” the horse that has some experience in Maryland. But from my perspective, that’s about all I can use to generate any interest in the horse. 35-1
5 Exaggerator. Exaggerator was somewhat up against it in the Derby, having to close from well off the pace and near the back of the field. He’s shown he can handle a sloppy racetrack, and actually doesn’t need to be way out of the race early. I think strategically he has to keep Nyquist in his sights and look to outfinish him, but thinking he’s going to make up 6 or 7 lengths in the stretch against the champion might be a big ask. 5-2
6 Lani. Lani’s downside in the Derby was coming off a brutal schedule of Japan to Dubai to Kentucky. He expectedly ran middling in the Derby and I’m not sure why the horse improves in the Preakness. He’s well bred for the wet track, but I’m sticking with my Derby opinion. He needs a rest. 20-1
7 Collected. Collected is another of the horses likely to prompt the pace. He has a couple of positives in his favor. First, he’s not a lead at all cost sort, so he could be relaxed early. Second he’s trained by Bob Baffert, who is always dangerous. Finally, he won the Lexington impressively last out. He’s improving and could be the surprise. 9-1
8 Laoban. Laoban has shown a lot of speed in his last two starts, but has not been able to sustain it. He’s another Uncle Mo and should get some early calls, but I can’t seem him sticking around that long. 40-1
9 Abiding Star. Abiding Star is riding a three race win streak, albeit against much less than he’ll be facing here. He generally shows speed, and no reason to expect he’ll change his strategy here. In my mind, he’s just not good enough to make an impact. 40-1
10 Fellowship. Fellowship has been trying graded stakes for a while with little success. Despite having Mark Casse in his corner, he just hasn’t shown me enough to get a nod. 30-1
11 Stradivari. Stradivari is very lightly raced – in fact, and complete X factor. He is trained by Todd Pletcher, and that will get him some backing. Do I think he deserves to be the third choice on the ML? Who knows exactly what kind of horse Pletcher is bringing to the race. This is a better-safe-than-sorry play. Throw him in the verticals because you don’t have enough information to throw him out. 9-1
We’re not left with a lot of options in this race. Anything other than Nyquist or Exaggerator looks like a big upset, and if those two come 1-2 there won’t be much of a payoff. The play may be the Superfecta, with the hope that something surprising fills out the back end.
Here’s my $84 Super play based primarily on Nyquist and Exaggerator dominating. If it comes 3-5 with the other more heavily used horses, you have a chance at a $4.50 Super.
- $1 Superfecta 3/5/2,7,11/all
- $2 Superfecta 3/5/2,7,11/2,7,11
- $1 Superfecta 3,5/3,5/2,7,11/2,4,6,7,11
- $0.50 Superfecta 3/2,5,7,11/2,5,7,11/2,4,5,6,7,11
Of course you could just bet a $50 exacta of Nyquist and Exaggerator and save yourself the sweat for third and fourth!