Saturday was payday for people who put their horse betting money on Exaggerator to win the Preakness Stakes. Although Nyquist was the odds-on favorite to win the race, he was unsuccessful in his bid to win the Triple Crown and finished third behind Cherry Wine. On a sloppy but sealed track, Nyquist couldn’t keep up with the early pace set by Uncle Lino. He led briefly at the 1/2 mile pole, but by the stretch he faded, and Exaggerator won by3 1⁄2 lengths. Cherry Wine had hit his head on the starting gate and was second-to-last for much of the race but saved ground on the rail and rallied in the stretch to take second place over Nyquist by a nose.
People who bet on horses were surprised by the outcome of the race. Exaggerator’s win over his archrival came after four tough losses, including a runner-up finish to Nyquist in the Kentucky Derby. Exaggerator trailed by 13 lengths at one point but kept gaining ground along the rail. Jockey Kent Desormeaux saw an opening around the final turn, angled outside and Exaggerator took over. Stradivari was fourth, followed by Lani, Laoban, Uncle Lino, Fellowship, Awesome Speed, Collected and Abiding Star.
In horse betting terms, Exaggerator returned $7.20, $3.20 and $2.40. Cherry Wine returned $9.80 and $4.20, and Nyquist paid $2.20 to show. The winning time for the race was 1:58.31. Nyquist broke well under Mario Gutierrez, and he and 34-1 long shot Uncle Lino went back and forth in the lead. When asked for his usual winning burst, Uncle Mo’s son just didn’t have it for the first time in his career. On the other hand, Exaggerator showed his talent in the slop once again. He won the Santa Anita Derby over a sloppy track, and did the same on a foggy, rainy day. It was the first Preakness winner for trainer Keith Desormeaux, who began his career in Maryland, and third for his Hall of Fame rider brother.
The audience of 134,000 – among whom there must have been quite a few who bet on horses – didn’t mind the rain, either. The pari-mutuel take of $94,127,434 for the entire day’s races broke the previous record of $91,028,000 in 2005. Even though there will not be a Triple Crown champion this year, the horse betting fun is far from over. The Belmont Stakes will be run in June 11 in Belmont Park, New York three weeks after the Preakness Stakes and five weeks after the Kentucky Derby. Therefore, there is plenty of time to assimilate the results of the Preakness Stakes and look forward to the “Test of the Champion,” as the Belmont Stakes are known.