"Thriving" Exaggerator continues to impress Desormeaux
After walking on his day off Thursday, Exaggerator returned to the track Friday morning for an energetic gallop under regular exercise rider Peedy Landry. They went out shortly after 9 a.m. (EDT) and spent 15 minutes on Belmont Park's main track before heading back to the barn on their usual route through the paddock.
"I told Peedy after the gallop that's about as strong as I've ever seen him in Peedy's hands. I think it had a little bit to do with the weather, also to do with the fact that there was a set of workers behind him to get him pumped up," trainer Keith Desormeaux said. "The cool thing about Exaggerator is that he can control his emotions. As soon as those workers went by and Peedy asked him to settle, he pulled up pretty good. I couldn't ask for a better gallop."
Exaggerator, second to Nyquist in the Kentucky Derby (G1) May 7, is attempting to become the 12th horse to win the Preakness (G1) and Belmont S. (G1) after falling short in Louisville and the first since Afleet Alex. In all, 18 horses have swept the final two-thirds of the Triple Crown including seven that did not run in the Derby.
"You know what's cool for me? There's no issues with this horse. He's eating well, the energy's there, the color is good," Desormeaux said. "As far as my preparation and the expectations of what we've done through the horse, I really can't ask my horse to be doing any better. He doesn't seem to be having or showing the rigors of three top races in five weeks. That's usually the number one concern, right? It looks like he's thriving off of it, so that's pretty cool."
Exaggerator would join elite company with a victory Saturday. The last Derby runner-up to win the Preakness and Belmont was Hall of Famer Nashua in 1955.
"He's a double crown winner if he does that. That's not bad. That's only one step away from a Triple Crown winner," Desormeaux said. "We might have coined a new phrase right there. Have you ever heard of a double crown winner before? There's a new one. He's got to win it first."
Desormeaux said Exaggerator will not go to the track Saturday but have a morning that is "as easy as possible."
"We'll walk him early. Usually when you do that they'll get back in the stall and conk out. He'll take a nap and if he gets looking like he wants another walk, we'll do that," he said. "For the most part we'll walk him early and then stay away from him, try to keep the noise level and antics in the barn away from him and let him rest. Again, he's smart. When he knows we're not asking him to do anything he will rest."
As per usual, Lani was out bright and early at 6:30 this morning, and the Japanese invader completed four circuits of Belmont's main track while either galloping, jogging or walking at various intervals.
After being led back to Barn 6, Lani was examined by Dr. Scott Palmer, the Executive Medical Director for New York State Gaming and Racing Commission, and pronounced good to go for the Belmont.
"He's ready," said trainer Mikio Matsunaga, who noted that the gray colt's regular rider, 16-time Japanese champion jockey Yutaka Take, arrived in New York Thursday.
Lani's connections are hoping for a fast track, as the son of Tapit is two-for-three under such conditions, including a win in the $2 million UAE Derby (G2) at Meydan.
"A little rain would be okay, but not a heavy rain," said the owner's agent, Keita Tanaka.
(Jessie Holmes/EquiSport Photos)