Exaggerator sails to victory in Haskell 2016

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Jen Caldwell

July 31st, 2016

Trainer Keith Desormeaux decided to bypass on Saratoga’s Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) with Preakness Stakes (G1) winner Exaggerator and instead send him to Monmouth Park for the $1,015,000 million Haskell Invitational (G1) on Sunday.

The move paid dividends as the Curlin colt stormed home a 1 1/2-length victor over the sloppy, sealed track.

Exaggerator faced Kentucky Derby (G1) hero Nyquist for the fifth time in the 1 1/8-mile event and managed to even the score a bit between the pair by beating that rival for the second straight time.

Nyquist actually led the way early, setting the opening quarter in :22.78 while dueling with American Freedom, who took command through the next three splits of :46.62, 1:11 and 1:35.96.

Meanwhile, jockey Kent Desormeaux bided his time with Exaggerator in the rear of the field. The duo saved ground on the rail during the backstretch run before finally angling off the inside entering the final turn. Exaggerator was four wide into the lane and unleashed a powerful run to easily grab control and win going away in a final time of 1:48.70.

The dark bay colt’s momentum carried him back toward the inside, where he drifted over in front of American Freedom before pulling clear. American Freedom’s rider, Rafael Bejarano, lodged an objection but it was dismissed by the stewards.

American Freedom had to settle for second in the Haskell, two lengths up on third-placer Sunny Ridge who just managed to stick his neck in front of Nyquist for the show spot. Gun Runner followed in fifth with Awesome Slew completing the order under the wire.

Exaggerator has now beaten Nyquist for the second straight time. The pair’s rivalry extends all the way back to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), which Nyquist captured en route to being honored as the champion two-year-old male of 2015. That was Exaggerator’s fifth start and he brought a win in the Saratoga Special (G2) and a second in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) into that fourth-place effort.

Exaggerator made one more start as a juvenile, closing out 2015 with a neck score in the Delta Jackpot (G3) in November. He faced off with Nyquist to open his sophomore campaign, running second in the San Vicente Stakes (G2). The Kentucky-bred got a break from his foe in his next pair of starts, finishing third in the San Felipe Stakes (G2) and capturing the Santa Anita Derby (G1) by 6 1/4 lengths over a sloppy, sealed track.

In fact, Exaggerator is 3-1-0 from four starts over off surfaces, but has still proven a top class runner on fast tracks as well. He proved that once again when runner-up to Nyquist in the Kentucky (G1), but also had the advantage of a sloppy, sealed surface when taking the Preakness by 3 1/2 lengths two back. The dark bay sophomore suffered just the second off-the-board placing of his career when 11th in the Belmont Stakes (G1) most recently and now boasts a 13-6-3-1, $3,571,120, career mark.

Bred in Kentucky by Joseph B. Murray, Exaggerator is campaigned by Big Chief Racing LLC, Head of Plains Partners LLC, Rocker O Ranch LLC, et al. He sold for $110,000 as a Keeneland September yearling to Big Chief Racing.

Exaggerator is out of the stakes-placed Vindication mare Dawn Raid, who set a new track record at Woodbine in 2007. Dawn Raid is a half-sister to Canadian champion Embur’s Song, herself a track record-setter at Keeneland in 2011.

Exaggerator’s female family also includes three-time Canadian champion Eternal Search, Grade 1 heroine Island Sand and 2004 Queen’s Plate winner Niigon.

Exaggerator photos courtesy of Jessie Holmes/EquiSport Photos and Bill Denver/Equi-Photo