The New York Racing Association (NYRA) said seven three-year-olds have so far signed up for the third leg of Triple Crown, the June 11 Belmont Stakes (gr. I). Three of the confirmed seven include the top three finishers of the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), Exaggerator, Cherry Wine, and Nyquist.
All eyes will be on the rivalry between Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Nyquist and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Exaggerator. Even though they split the first two legs of the Triple Crown, Belmont spectators will have plenty to keep their attention glued to the track in the form of the Exaggerator-Nyquist showdown Part III.
“Absolutely,” said Exaggerator trainer Keith Desormeaux when answering whether he was looking forward to squaring off against Nyquist again in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I). “This is fun, isn’t it? There was no pressure on me yesterday. All the pressure was on Nyquist to keep the record perfect, so I totally enjoyed the day. Now that we’ve accomplished this, the pressure is even less.”
“We’re heading to Belmont,” said Nyquist trainer Doug O’Neill. “As long as he continues to show good energy and does well, we’ll try this again in three weeks. … The plan was to point to the Triple Crown races—all three—and ideally win all three, but I thought he ran a really gutsy race and I just wanted to make sure he looked good this morning before committing to go to the Belmont.”
Defeat at the Preakness didn’t keep O’Neill down.
“Even the great Secretariat got beat three times (as a 3-year-old),” said O’Neill. “They’re not machines, as much as he seemed like a machine, being undefeated and doing everything like a super horse—and he is a super horse. He ran his race. Exaggerator just ran an unbelievable race. … I did (want him to be close to the lead). I wanted a good, clean trip—free running.
“The fast pace (can) be blamed on me. I just didn’t want traffic trouble going into the first turn.”