Preakness Stakes winner Exaggerator continues to do all the right things coming at Pimlico, a track that has treated him very well in the last couple weeks. It’s a stark contrast to the condition that Nyquist finds himself in. Sadly, the two rivals won’t be able to compete in the final leg of the Triple Crown as the latter has been forced to withdraw due to a low grade fever.
But it’s full go for Exaggerator, who will be making his transition to Belmont Park later this week. Travelling is usually the greatest non-race concern during the Triple Crown. The tight, two-week window between the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes can be a troubling process given the great distance travelled over such a narrow amount of time. That journey can take anywhere between 12-15 hours and covers a distance of over 600 miles.
By contrast, the trip from Pimlico to Belmont is just 300 miles and can be covered in about 6 hours. It’s a much less harrowing phase of the Triple Crown. Usually, if a horse is in good condition prior to leaving, he’ll arrive at Belmont in top shape as well. That’s exactly what’s happened with Exaggerator, who will open the Test of the Champion as the strong favorite.
“He’s good,’ trainer Keith Desormeaux noted. “He jogged a couple rounds on the track and he looks no worse for wear. He’s eating up his feed and his legs are tight and cold. He’s just doing all the things we want our horses to do post-race.”
The positive nature of Exaggerator’s behaviour this week is great news, even if his own trainer doesn’t totally understand it. It’s been a grizzly two weeks for the Kentucky Derby runner-up and Preakness Stakes victor. It would be expected for him to show a little fatigue, but so far everything is green.
“I can’t quite explain it,” he said. “They usually are a little down after a race. I think if a horse is fit and right mentally going into a race, they should recover quickly. They’re fit athletes. We give them time to recover, and as long as they have a good mental constitution, a return to normalcy in 24 to 36 hours is not out of the question. He does it with regularity.”