Powell: Preakness turned out as expected
by Dick Powell
The 141st Preakness Stakes (G1) is in the books and, amazingly, the race played out as expected. The good thing this year was the bad weather that was predicted did occur and the pace scenario developed.
When Kentucky Derby (G1) winner NYQUIST (Uncle Mo) drew post three, with a stone cold speed horse to his inside and four other need-to-lead types to his outside, the table was set for a pace meltdown and sure enough, it happened.
When Fernando Perez sent UNCLE LINO (Uncle Mo) to the front from post two, Mario Gutierrez had a quick decision to make. Does he go with him or see how the outside speed horses broke and worry about them instead of Uncle Lino?
The only outside speed horse that broke running was AWESOME SPEED (Awesome Again), so it was not like Nyquist was going to be behind a bunch of horses if his rider took back and eased off a fast pace. But the problem that Gutierrez had was his mount broke like a rocket from the gate and he was worried that if he wrapped up on him at that point, the Derby winner might resent it.
So, he let Nyquist go and when Uncle Lino covered the first quarter mile in :22.38, it was not going to be easy. Gutierrez kept Nyquist far off the rail to try to get him to relax and even though he did, he was pressing a first half-mile in :46.56 on a track that took on a ton of rain in the preceding hour.
Going into the far turn, it was four across the track as Bob Baffert’s COLLECTED (City Zip) moved up on the outside while Kent Desormeaux sent the mud-loving EXAGGERATOR (Curlin) up the inside to sit behind the leaders while saving ground.
At one point, it looked like STRADIVARI (Medaglia d’Oro) was going to threaten, but on the far turn Exaggerator was traveling better to his inside. The front-running foursome turned into a twosome with Uncle Lino to the inside and Nyquist right next to him. This opened up room for Desormeaux to get off the rail and tip to the outside for a clear path to the leaders.
Like a shot, Desormeaux had Exaggerator swing outside, take the lead, then go back inside to the rail. Even though it looked like he was running erratically, it showed how good his footing was as Desormeaux could place him anywhere he wanted. Nyquist pulled off the rail to try to re-rally but the Preakness was over, possible back-to-back Triple Crowns was over and Exaggerator was the winner of the 141st Preakness Stakes for the Desormeaux brothers.
Trainer Keith did a sensational job keeping his colt fresh after his Derby runner-up effort, and with the wet weather he had the track that he wanted. Who knows how he will do on a dry track, but for now he is a classic winner and a well-deserved one at that.
Nyquist was gallant in defeat as he held on grimly until losing the place photo at the wire to CHERRY WINE (Paddy O’Prado), who rallied up the inside. A couple of days after the race, it was disclosed that Nyquist came out of the Preakness with a fever and will not go on to the Belmont Stakes (G1). Considering the Breeders’ Cup is at Santa Anita this year, coupled with the fact that this is the second time that Nyquist developed a fever after shipping, look for him to stay on the West Coast the rest of the year.
I needed Stradivari to be first or second and was disappointed in the result. He was bred for the wet track but wound up racing between horses with a ton of mud kicked back into him. While Desormeaux went down to the inside on the backside and kept him out of it, Johnny Velazquez had Stradivari right behind the front runners and ate a lot of mud.
He lost his footing briefly at the top of the stretch, came on a bit and, just when it looked like he might get by Nyquist, flattened out in the final 100 yards. Stradivari will probably re-group since trainer Todd Pletcher is pointing stablemate DESTIN (Giant’s Causeway) to the Belmont Stakes in three weeks.
The final time of the 1 3/16-mile Preakness was a pokey 1:58.31. If it was a normal track condition, even with the way the race was run, I think Nyquist would have held on. What got him beat was the track condition, not Gutierrez.
When you come to a fork in the road, you have to pick one. Gutierrez picked one and that was that. When the quarter miles of a race are run in :22.38, :24.18, :25.41 and :26.22 with the last three-sixteenths run in :20.12, Nyquist really had no chance to hang on over an extremely tiring surface.
The day started out on a tragic note as one horse collapsed after winning race one and another broke down turning for home in a turf race. The second horse, PRAMEDYA (Harlan’s Holiday), was eerily owned by Roy and Gretchen Jackson’s Lael Stables.
Ten years ago in the Preakness, their BARBARO (Dynaformer) was injured in the race which eventually cost him his life. And like Barbaro, Pramedya broke through the starting gate before being re-loaded back into the starting gate.
A few months ago, I took James McIngvale to task for ignoring the role that Maria Borell played in RUNHAPPY’s (Super Saver) Eclipse Award campaign. I stand by every word I wrote.
And there has been a swirl of stories that surround Borell that are troubling to say the least.
Now, Margaret Ransom has written a piece on Borell, “The Shocking Untold Story of Maria Borell.” Shocking doesn’t even begin to describe what she revealed.
I will leave it up to you to read it and draw your own conclusions. However, one piece of advice I have is to avoid that trap that many people fall into. McIngvale is not very likable and before hiring Borell, he went through over 30 trainers that despite some having Hall of Fame credentials, all met the same demise. So many who don’t like him side with Borell.
But after reading this piece, this saga is not about good and bad. Sometimes many issues are not good and bad but bad and bad; or in this case, levels of bad against levels of bad. McIngvale might be a bit nutty but animal neglect has never been hung on him. I would hope that if there is any accuracy in Ransom’s story, and she has tons of people on the record and photographic evidence to back up their assertions, a racing commission has to step in, investigate and prosecute.