On a very sloppy track at Pimlico today, Exaggerator, who finished second in the Kentucky Derby, pushed ahead of Derby winner Nyquist to handily win the 141st running of the Preakness Stakes for owners Big Chief Racing, LLC, Head of Plains Partners LLC and Rocker O Ranch LLC. He ran the 1 3/16-mile race in 1:58:31 to earn his fifth victory in 11 starts. Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux, who got his racing start here in Maryland, was in the irons while his brother Keith trains the Curlin colt. Curlin won the Preakness in 2007 as well as the Breeders Cup Classic (2007) and Dubai World Cup (2008).
While Uncle Lino and Nyquist took to the lead fast and early, Exaggerator settled well of the pace in the middle of the 11 horse field. Nyquist and Uncle Lino went wide around the backstretch while Kent kept Exaggerator tight on the rail, saving time and moving up quickly on the leaders.”I noticed that everybody in front of me was, instead of moving towards the fence, were moving out,” Kent said during the post-race press conference. “I made a 90-degree turn to get to the fence. Tried to put him into maybe a two path, not being right on top of the fence and had an absolute dream ride.”
Kent added, “we got to the three and a half, and the rail was still wide open, but I thought it was way too soon.” Instead of pushing forward, Kent actually asked Exaggerator to slow down and wait. “He just blew up and felt like King Kong. And when I pitched him out he did what he can do, he exploded.”
“I wanted to strangle [Kent] when I saw him go to the rail,” Keith joked during the post-race press conference. “But…welcome to my house. That’s why I can be so calm before a race, because all the pressure’s off of me and this is why he’s in the Hall of Fame. Those kinds of decisions.”
Kent and Exaggerator took the lead in the homestretch with Cherry Wine edging out Nyquist for second. “I’m proud of my horse, proud of my jockey,” said Cherry Wine’s trainer Dale Romans (who finished first and second in Friday’s Black-Eyed Susan Stakes). “Exaggerator looked great all week and Keith did a good job with him. It’s a special thing, two brothers in a Classic like this.”
When asked what winning a Triple Crown race here in Maryland after getting their start here nearly 25 years ago meant, Keith said, “This is where I had my first job on the racetrack with a guy named Tommy Cavendis and the great Charlie Hadrey after him. So to start here and to win the Classic here, it’s a little, what’s the word, not coincidental, but special.”
Kent replied, “For me, I cut my teeth in the industry here. The owners and trainers, absolutely, put me on the pedestal, and I hope they’re all very proud that they’re not wrong about what they gave me because this is where I belong, riding Classics. I love it, and I was so very comfortable going around [this] racetrack.”
Attendance at this year’s Preakness Day was up 2.5% over 2015 with a record setting crowd of 135,256 braving the rain. The total handle for the day was also up by 10.8% and also set a new record at $94,127,434. The previous handle record was set in 2005. Total in-state wagering was up 3.1%. “Our record handle and attendance is further indication of the revitalization of Maryland racing,” said Maryland Jockey Club president and general manager Sal Sinatra. “We will continue our efforts to reinvigorate Thoroughbred racing in Maryland.”
Attendance at Friday’s Black-Eyed Susan Day also set a record with 47,956 people. The wagering was up 4.7% for the day.