It appears the only sure thing about Preakness Day at Pimlico on Saturday is there will be rain.
Of course there are many, myself included that will say Nyquist is pretty close to a sure thing as well. The Kentucky Derby winner is the overwhelming favorite at 3-5 on the morning line.
Of course with the rain some may be looking at an upset, especially with Exaggerator winning the Santa Anita Derby back in early April by over six lengths in the slop.
While the Exaggerator success on off-tracks is well documented – he also won a race in the mud at Delta Downs – what doesn’t show on the past performances is the Nyquist has run well and won twice on the tracks that were hardly dry.
In the Florida Derby on a track listed as good, but did get a substantial amount of water earlier in the day, Nyquist easily dispatched Mohaymen from the unbeaten ranks. Then on Derby day, there was about good amount of rain within two hours of the start over, leaving some standing water on the Churchill track.
Nyquist jockey Mario Gutierrez has proven time and again how intelligent a rider he has become and count on him to put Nyquist in a great spot throughout the race.
The figures to be plenty of speed in the race with Uncle Lino, Awesome Speed, Collected, Laoban, Abiding Star and Stradivari all showing the desire to be on or right near the lead.
And on paper it does look like the kind of race where closers like Exaggerator and Cherry Wine figure to thrive.
Adding to the attractiveness of the closers is the front-end speed doesn’t seem like it will be lasting speed, meaning expect the pace-setters to be tiring in the lane.
But that also is what makes Nyquist even more attractive. He sat near the pace in the Derby and when they tired, he just kept going. Even the connections of Exaggerator were surprised, feeling the race was falling their way with the quick splits. They made a run, but Nyquist turned it back, silencing the slew of critics who said Nyquist wouldn’t get the distance. Not only did he, he got it by two seconds faster than American Pharoah did last year.
Nyquist is also lightly raced, making only his fourth start of the year. He has been training with high energy for the race after coming of the Derby in great shape.
So who runs second and third?
Obviously you need Exaggerator on your ticket as for the fifth time he figures to be chasing Nyquist home in the lane.
My third horse in the ticket will be Cherry Wine. A personal favorite of mine, he just missed out on points to get a spot in the Derby. The rail draw is a concern, but he will have no problem taking back early and then circling the field. The horse has gotten better in each of his last six starts and did break maiden in the mud by nine-lengths.
If I was to throw a fourth horse into the equation it would be Collected. It doesn’t appear he needs the lead, looks like he has the talent to stay close and possibly hit the board.
Finally, if you are looking for another option, take a gander at Fellowship. Here is another closer that was third to Nyquist in the Florida Derby. I just don’t see him getting first run and it will be tough to move faster than Exaggerator and Cherry Wine.
By Dennis Miller