WORLD CLASS: Exaggerator moves ahead in epic rivalry with Nyquist

Exaggerator wins the Preakness Stakes

Exaggerator: Preakness Stakes could have been tipping point in rivalry

  PICTURE: Jessie Holmes/EquiSport  

 By Sam Walker 3:05PM 1 AUG 2016 

Exaggerator looks like he’s edging ahead of Nyquist in the battle to be US champion three-year-old after beating his nemesis to land the Haskell Invitational on Sunday.

The ongoing battle of the star colts has spanned two seasons and six races, including everything from their racecourse debuts to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.

But on Sunday it looked like Exaggerator finally seized the upper hand after easing to a length-and-a-half success over American Freedom, with Nyquist fading into fourth.

The big two first met in a Santa Anita maiden in June last year. Nyquist won on that occasion with Exaggerator nine-and-a-half lengths away in fifth, but every time they have met since the gap between them has moved in favour of Exaggerator.

Tipping point

Nyquist won their next three meetings, by three lengths at the Breeders’ Cup, one-and-a-half lengths in the San Vicente Stakes and one-and-a-quarter lengths in the Kentucky Derby, where they finished first and second.

The Preakness Stakes could be considered the tipping point in the rivalry, as Exaggerator won the race by three-and-a-half lengths from Cherry Wine with Nyquist a nose away in third, although there were extenuating circumstances that day.

For starters it was a muddy track; Exaggerator had won the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby in the slop, while Nyquist was unproven under those conditions. However, the biggest factor was undoubtedly the utterly unsustainable pace Mario Gutierrez set aboard Nyquist.

Nyquist was given the benefit of the doubt for that defeat and was sent off a clear favourite to gain revenge and reassert his supremacy at Monmouth Park on Sunday, but again his rival came out best – and improved his margin.

Pace not manic

Circumstances were again in Exaggerator’s favour on the weekend, with the muddy track and strong pace playing in favour of the horse who uses extreme hold-up tactics.

But, while the pace from the favourite was not sustainable, in that he slowed down at every 2f check point along the way, it was not as manic as the pace he was asked to set in the Preakness.

Proof of this comes from the fact the horse who pressured Nyquist for the lead on Sunday, American Freedom, held on for a gutsy second while the favourite was unable to keep up the gallop. 

Career best

It could be that Nyquist really doesn’t like slop, or that he needed the run after a short break, but it is equally likely that the champion juvenile and Kentucky Derby winner was a superb youngster whose rivals have gradually caught up.

This latest fourth-place effort earned him an RPR of 114, which is on a par with the balance of his form. In six his of his previous seven starts, for example, he earned RPRs of 112-116. The one exception was the Kentucky Derby (124).

Exaggerator has been operating on a slightly higher level on average, with three of his previous four runs producing RPRs of 121 to 122. His latest win earned him a career best figure of 123. And who can say whether that will be his limit?

Minding too good

There was a similar tipping point in the big rivalry between the three-year-old colts of Europe last week, with The Gurkha bagging his first British Group 1 in the Sussex Stakes on Wednesday.

Aidan O’Brien’s colt finished second to Galileo Gold in the St James’s Palace Stakes after being given too much to do and he again found one too good in the Coral-Eclipse, losing out to Hawkbill when the ground and pace again went against him.

But with the ground in his favour the Irish colt edged past Galileo Gold (123) to land the Goodwood Group 1 by a neck, with Ribchester (123) staying on well to be beaten a short-head in third. The winner posted an RPR of 124.

Later in the week Europe’s leading filly Minding was simply too good for her rivals in an uncompetitive running of the Nassau Stakes on Saturday. She ran below her 122 best to win by one-and-a-quarter lengths with an RPR of 116+.

Freak result

America’s leading distaffer Beholder didn’t have quite such an easy time in the Clement L. Hirsch at Del Mar later that day, losing out by a half length to Stellar Wind (119). Beholder carried 2lb more than the winner and matched the RPR of 120 she posted when winning the corresponding race last year.

The Prix Rothschild was the deepest filly and mares race of the week and a cosy one-and-a-quarter length success for Qemah (117+) marked her as another budding star miler for trainer Jean-Claude Rouget, who also has Prix Jean Prat winner Zelzal (122) to look forward to this autumn.

The freak result of the week came in the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga on Saturday, when the maiden Laoban plugged on from the front to fend off the first, second and fourth from the Belmont Stakes and one-time Kentucky Derby favourite Mohaymen.

The winner posted a career best RPR of 116 – a 13lb improvement on any of his previous form. He’s a big horse so there’s a chance he is only now developing into his frame, but setting his own fractions probably played a part in this result.

TOP OF THE CLASS: The Gurkha 124 Aidan O’Brien (Ire) (Sussex Stakes, Goodwood, 1m, 27 July)

TOP LIST

Name (country trained) Race Rating
1 A Shin Hikari (Jpn) Prix d’Ispahan 131T
  California Chrome (US) San Diego Handicap 131D
3 Frosted (US) Metropolitan Handicap 130D
4 Postponed (GB) Sheema Classic/Coronation Cup 126T
  Winx (Aus) Doncaster Mile 126T
6 Aerovelocity (HK) Centenary Sprint Cup 125T
  Dortmund (US) San Diego Handicap 125D
  Fascinating Rock (Ire) Tattersalls Gold Cup 125T
  Limato (GB) Darley July Cup 125T
 10 Chautauqua (Aus) Black Caviar Lightning 124T
Galileo Gold (GB) St James’s Palace Stakes 124T
Harzand (Ire) Derby 124T
My Dream Boat (GB) Prince Of Wales’s Stakes 124T
Nyquist (US) Kentucky Derby 124D
Terravista (Aus) Black Caviar Lightning 124T
The Gurkha (Ire) Sussex Stakes 124T
Time Test (GB) Brigadier Gerard 124T

TURF

Name (country trained) Race Rating
1 A Shin Hikari (Jpn) Prix d’Ispahan 131
2 Postponed (GB) Sheema Classic/Coronation Cup 126
  Winx (Aus) Doncaster Mile 126
4 Aerovelocity (HK) Centenary Sprint Cup 125
  Fascinating Rock (Ire) Tattersalls Gold Cup 125
  Limato (GB) Darley July Cup 125
7 Chautauqua (Aus) Black Caviar Lightning 124
  Galileo Gold (GB) St James’s Palace Stakes 124
  Harzand (Ire) Derby 124
  My Dream Boat (GB) Pricne Of Wales’s Stakes 124
  Terravista (Aus) Black Caviar Lightning 124
The Gurkha (Ire) Sussex Stakes 124
  Time Test (GB) Brigadier Gerard 124

DIRT

Name (country trained) Race Rating
1 California Chrome (US) San Diego Handicap 131
2 Frosted (US) Metropolitan Handicap 130
3 Dortmund (US) San Diego Handicap 125
4 Nyquist (US) Kentucky Derby 124
5 Exaggerator (US) Haskell Invitational 123
6 Effinex (US) Oaklawn Handicap 122
7 Taris (US) Humana Distaff 121
8 A.P. Indian (US) Alfred G. Vanderbilt 120
Beholder (US) Clement L. Hirsch 120
X Y Jet (US) Sunshine Millions Sprint 120

 
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