In four attempts, Exaggerator has yet to get past Nyquist but his trainer Keith Desormeaux is prepared to try again in the Preakness Stakes.
Exaggerator has narrowed his losing margin against Nyquist in each race, finishing 1-1/4 lengths behind in the Kentucky Derby.
A determined Desormeaux keeps trying to convince himself Exaggerator is ready to run down Nyquist, the unbeaten 3-5 favourite in Saturday’s 11-horse field.
He said the powerfully built colt needed only one day to recover from his second in the Derby.
“Along with his pedigree (a son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin), his No. 1 physical attribute is his ability to recover,” Desormeaux said.
Exaggerator also won the Santa Anita Derby on a wet track, a distinct possibility for the 1-3/16 mile (1900m) Preakness.
“We’re not wishing for one track over another,” Desormeaux said, “I prefer to have my picture taken in the sun.”
Exaggerator is the 3-1 second choice, with lightly raced Stradavari – one of eight challengers that did not run in the Derby – next at 8-1.
All the chatter this week around Pimlico has been about Nyquist and can he really follow up American Pharoah’s Triple Crown with another one?
His trainer Doug O’Neill, who won the 2012 Derby and Preakness with I’ll Have Another, knows Exaggerator is the rival to fear in the Preakness.
“What they have done with Exaggerator has been brilliant,” O’Neill said. “He won the Santa Anita Derby. He won the Delta Downs Jackpot. He won the Saratoga Special.
“He’s run second a few times but he’s also won some big races, and he ran a winning race in the Kentucky Derby. He just had a lot to do. We kind of got a head start on him.”
With a smaller field than the Derby and a shorter distance to run, Exaggerator is expected to closer to the leaders, which will likely include Nyquist.
Asked if he thinks Exaggerator and Nyquist are aware of each other since they have raced so many times, Keith Desormeaux replied: “If he knows anything about Nyquist, it’s the rear view.”