Exaggerator overtakes Nyquist to win the 141st Preakness Stakes – USA TODAY

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BALTIMORE — Exaggerator rained on Nyquist’s parade at the Preakness. And that’s no exaggeration at all.

The Kentucky Derby runner-up won the second leg of horse-racing’s Triple Crown Saturday in the rain and slop at Pimlico Race Course. Nyquist, the Derby winner, started fast but faded in the stretch, finishing third behind longshot Cherry Wine.

Kent Desormeaux, the winning jockey, said the secret to victory was staying close to the rail, shortening the distance Exaggerator had to run, while the other jockeys stayed wide.

Keith Desormeaux, the winning trainer, said he didn’t know what his little brother was doing. “I wanted to strangle him when I saw him go to the rail,” Keith said to laughter in the postrace news conference. “All these other jockeys realize it’s a quagmire by the rail and I’m like, ‘What’s he doing?’ ”

But Kent knew exactly what he was doing. He said he made a 90-degree turn to get to rail when he saw the inside open up: “I was on the fence and they all stayed wide. These turns, you want to paint the fence. We did, they didn’t. And, not for nothing, but knowledge is power.”

Nyquist was 8-0 entering the race and Exaggerator was 0-4 against Nyquist. Handicappers speculated before the race that Nyquist could win the Triple Crown with Exaggerator in second every time. But Nyquist would not torment Exaggerator again on this day. Exaggerator not only cruised to a 3½-length victory, but Kent Desormeaux said he allowed his horse to drift out down the stretch just to give Nyquist the old here’s-mud-in-your-eye.

“Since I’m clear, I might as well throw mud in their face and not let them come back,” Kent Desormeaux said gleefully of his final furlongs. “So I let him drift out in front of Nyquist and hopefully finish the job. And he did.”

Doug O’Neill, Nyquist’s trainer, said he didn’t know if the muddy conditions bothered his horse and, anyway, he didn’t think his horse could be beat.

“It’s a bummer, of course,” O’Neill said. “Our horse, God, he’s such an amazing horse. I can’t wait to see him in a little bit, give him a big kiss and pat him on the head because he’s still a winner in our book. They’re not machines. Being 8-for-8, we kept thinking that this horse is never going to lose. But they all lose at one time or another.”

Exaggerator’s muddy win automatically means less interest in the Belmont, third leg of the Triple Crown, where last year American Pharoah became the first horse to win the three-race gauntlet in 37 years. Keith Desormeaux promised Exaggerator would be at the Belmont: “We’ll be there with bells on.”

O’Neill said he’d take the heat for his horse charging ahead early. “We thought we had the best horse and wanted to ride him like the best horse and not try to get cute and get perfect positioning,” he said. “Him going fast early was really my idea, thinking, ‘He’s the best horse, take it to them.’ ”

More than 135,000 fans gathered at the track, mostly in the infield, for a record crowd — though, by the look of it, many had left before the featured race began thanks to worsening weather.

“It’s Mother Nature,” O’Neill said. “What are you going to do?”

Kent Desormeaux, the jockey half of the brother team, thinks rain or shine would have made no difference Saturday.

“Those other horses fought and battled for six-wide when I didn’t have anything but a dream ride,” he said. “And if they’re going to give Exaggerator that, I think on any track he would beat them all.”

Exaggerator overtakes Nyquist to win the 141st Preakness Stakes – USA TODAY

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