Nyquist Should Overcome Obstacles
The Preakness Stakes is a bit shorter than the Kentucky Derby, has a smaller field, comes after a two-week break from the Derby, and has much more speed in the field. Those are all factors to consider as Nyquist goes after the second leg of the Triple Crown on Saturday at Pimlico Race Course in Maryland.
The Four Differences
The distance should be no problem for Nyquist. Only Lani has won at more than 1 1/8 miles. He won at 1 3/16 miles (the distance of the Preakness), and that was in a UAE Derby field that most consider fairly weak.
The field won't be as huge as in the Derby, with 12 horses listed now, and one or two of them possible to drop out. So post position won't be as crucial. Most of the horses will be able to find their spots relatively easily.
The short interval between races will be taxing on the four horses who return from the Derby, so seven or eight others will have more rest. That may be a problem for the Derby champion, but three of the last four Kentucky Derby winners have come back to win the Preakness, despite that factor.
Nyquist has always been able to stalk the speed, so look for him to be no more than three lengths back most of the way, which is his comfort range. He's looking for the four speed horses to push each other into weakening in the stretch.
Nyquist vs. The Field
Now that we've eliminated as obstacles the differences between the two races, let's look at the probable field for the race.
Nyquist will have at most three runners from the Derby who will try to come back and beat him. He won't have to deal with Mohaymen and Mor Spirit. Those two will probably rest up for mid-summer. Gun Runner is listed as "possible" for the Preakness, but his connections are vague on his future. That leaves old foe Exaggerator and Derby ninth-place Lani to come back after the champ. Nyquist has held out against Exaggerator three times and beaten Lani once.
But there are a couple of scary contenders who are taking on their first Triple Crown races. One is trying his first stakes race, period. That is the relative unknown, Stradivari, who dazzled in his last two lower-level races, winning by a combined 26 lengths. It's a tough spot to start a stakes career, so we'll see how he can handle a strong field for the first time. The other is a classy horse, Collected, who has won three of five, including two graded stakes. His big asset is having won his last two and the fact that the five-week break between his races seems to be a layoff he likes.
Then there is Awesome Speed, a three-time stakes winner who was fourth behind Mohaymen in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes. But Awesome Speed yet to win at the graded stakes level. The most experienced horse in the field will be Fellowship, who has 12 races to his credit, but hasn't won in his 3-year-old season. He was third behind Nyquist and Majesto in the Florida Derby.
There's no reason Nyquist shouldn't win the Preakness, and he will be the deserving favorite. But he may go off as little as 1-5, so betting him simply to win brings little return. Putting him atop any exotic would be OK, and I wouldn't hesitate to single him in a multi-race exotic or daily double. Right now, my trifecta looks simple: Nyquist, Exaggerator, Gun Runner (if he's in it). I don't see an exacta box working with the price Nyquist will carry. The timing of this race seems to set up well for Collected, but he may be one of about four horses who'll dash for the lead, and I'm not sure he can hold up against the class. I'm thinking Stradivari will run near Nyquist in a stalking spot, then see if he can outstretch the Derby winner in the final furlong. If things fall apart, Cherry Wine may be an adequate closer to keep up with Exaggerator. So, outside of the trifecta, Collected, Stradivari and Cherry Wine look like candidates to complete a superfecta.
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