Nyquist accepts challenges from 10 in Preakness
The quest for the lead will be more competitive.
An early pace made hotter by the presence of Laoban, Awesome Speed and Uncle Lino will make Saturday’s Preakness Stakes take on a different complexion than the Kentucky Derby of two weeks ago.
But everybody will still be looking at Nyquist, the unbeaten Derby champion . . . most hoping for another possible Triple Crown success only a year after American Pharoah accomplished what no other thoroughbred had done since 1978.
The chocolate-brown colt made believers of any remaining doubters with his near-flawless performance in the Kentucky Derby, where 170,000 people attended at Churchill Downs in Louisville.
Now undefeated in eight career starts, Nyquist will be the prohibitive favorite against a field that includes eight thoroughbreds that did not try The Derby.
Only Exaggerator, who finished fast-closing second to Nyquist, and the Japanese gray enigma, Lani, came to Baltimore from the Kentucky Derby.
Exaggerator has now lost to Nyquist in four diffferent races.
Lani was ninth in the Kentucky Derby.
Several of the Preakness entries would seem to be extreme longshots.
Laoban is a maiden and has never won any race. Stradivari has never even run in a stakes race.
The local favorite will be Awesome Speed, a winner in Baltimore in the Tesio Stakes.
Collected is trained by the ever-present Bob Baffert and has won three straight stakes races — all against lesser competition.
Cherry Wine comes off a third-place finish in the Blue Grass Stakes, and Uncle Lino is a well-bred son of Uncle Mo.
Consistent if nothing else has been Fellowship with his three consecutive third-place showings. A hunch bet for some, Fellowship is the son of Go Girlfriend Go.
Abiding Star was stabled at Parx Racing in Philadelphia where an outbreak of a dangerous equine virus surfaced about six weeks ago and forced a quarantine with no travel put into effect. If that quarantine hasn’t been lifted, he can’t even come to Baltimore. In his five career starts, Abiding Star has never won.
This second leg of the Triple Crown tiara is shorter in distance than the Kentucky Derby. Maybe as many as four entries will simply throw caution to the wind and sprint out of the Pimlico gate for the lead.
A sizzling (and energy-killing) early pace is probable.
Should those thoroughbreds severely compromise their chances, it will be up to Nyquist, Exaggerator and possibly the late-running Cherry Wine to duel through the stretch in front of the aged, glass-enclosed grandstand.
Nyquist has already won $4,954,200 in purse money… and his odds on Saturday could be as low as even-money and probably no better for the bettor than 6-5.
Is there another Triple Crown in the cards for moribund horse racing? To keep fading interest alive and off life support, a win by Nyquist would carry the sport to the Belmont Stakes in New York three weeks after the Preakness.