History in the making looks to continue on Saturday as the undefeated Nyquist looks for the second leg of the Triple Crown in the Preakness Stakes. Following in the footsteps of California Chrome and American Pharoah, Nyquist looks to be the third straight Kentucky Derby winner to head into the Belmont with Triple Crown aspirations.
Nyquist showed his dominance two weeks ago, as jockey Mario Gutierrez positioned him close to a quick early pace in the Kentucky Derby. When asked in the stretch, Nyquist responded, opening up two lengths and holding off the late move of Exaggerator to win by just over a length. The 2015 Champion two-year-old colt has gone three-for-three in 2016, and eight-for--eight on his career heading into the Preakness.
This second leg of the Triple Crown is the shortest of the three races, something that will likely help Nyquist with his close up running style. Surprisingly, only two other Derby participants come back in this second leg as Exaggerator and tenth-place finisher Lani are the only others making the quick, two-week between races, return.
Nyquist should get a very similar trip as he did in the Preakness in the Derby. The pace is likely to be quick once again as numerous horses could show early speed, led by the maiden Laoban. Expect Nyquist to rate in the clear within four to five lengths, and look to move into the stretch. Jockey Mario Gutierrez has been in a similar position before with I’ll Have Another and should know when to make his move on Saturday. If the track comes up sloppy, you may even see Nyquist closer to the early pace.
There are a few runners in with a chance to pull off the upset in the Preakness. Leading the way is the Derby runner-up Exaggerator for the Desormeaux brothers. While he may be better suited for the longer Belmont Stakes, he tries this leg with hopes of another swift early pace to close into. With rain in the forecast, the slop monster does move up, but it will also likely lower any value you may receive at the betting window. Exaggerator has a shot to turn the tables on Nyquist, the question is if 1 3/16 miles will be enough ground for him to do it.
A couple of newcomers for Hall of Fame trainers are also in the mix in the Preakness. Bob Baffert sends out Collected as he comes off three victories from four stakes starts on the year. Collected has some versatility as he could get a very similar trip to Nyquist in the Preakness. The decision will be left to jockey Javier Castellano as to when to move with Collected as he likely won’t allow Nyquist to get the early jump on him Saturday.
Trainer Todd Pletcher starts Stradivari from the outside with his go-to guy John Velazquez aboard. Stradivari is more of a wildcard in the Preakness as he has made only three career starts. This will be his first stakes start but he has shown that he is deserving of the opportunity. He sprung onto the scene most recently as he blew away an allowance field at Keeneland by 14 lengths and has trained well into the Preakness.
In the end, can any of the other 10 entrants in the Preakness defeat Nyquist? Possibly, but it isn’t likely. Nyquist has handled everything tossed at him thus far in his career. He has shipped well, has handled different distances and weather conditions, and has won from on or off the pace. Looking at how things are expected to unfold in the Preakness, it looks like we will be cheering on another possible Triple Crown winner in three weeks.