Exaggerator Vies for 3-Year-Old Favor
Kudos to Doug O'Neill. He saw a chance to defeat a rival in a prestigious race, he saw speed in that race, and he checked the weather report. Then on Wednesday of race week, he officially entered his mud-running closer into the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park. The rain came, the speed developed, and it all paid off. Just as he had done in the Preakness and the Santa Anita Derby, Exaggerator roared from behind to win in the muck. Now his Haskell triumph puts Exaggerator at the top of a lot of rankings for the 3-year-old division. But is he really better than Nyquist?
A Nice Setup
While Exaggerator started his closing move on the home turn, Nyquist, the even-odds favorite, was battling to stay alive in a fast-paced duel that he had started with American Freedom at the beginning. That pace, plus the fact that he had not run a race since the Preakness two months before, was a little too much for the Kentucky Derby winner. He dropped back in the stretch and finished fourth, as Exaggerator rolled and American Freedom placed second.
Exaggerator was originally being pointed to the Travers Stakes late this month, but on Wednesday a decision was made to re-route him to the Haskell. That decision gave him a victory and further confuses the Breeders' Cup betting situation. Now Nyquist and Exaggerator could hook up again in the Travers, which may settle things a bit. And American Freedom certainly showed his worth by maintaining the torrid pace and still finishing second in the Haskell.
Classier BC Hopefuls
As far as Breeders' Cup betting is concerned, none of these horses is in the class of California Chrome or some of the other elders who could be in the BC Classic. But in the 3-year-old division, Nyquist has won five Grade 1 races, and Exaggerator has won three. Nyquist has the 4-2 edge when they've gone head to head, with Exaggerator's two wins coming in the mud. I believe Exaggerator is still the second best in the division. This all may be sorted out in the Travers and beyond. You can be sure that Doug O'Neill will be watching the weather.
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