The second jewel of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes, takes place this Saturday (6:45 p.m., NBC) at Pimlico Racecourse in Baltimore, MD. Leading the way of course is Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist (post position three, 3-5 morning-line favorite), who is expected to be a heavy favorite over this field of 11 come post time. But there’s a good mix of Kentucky Derby also-rans and fresh faces in this heat who could pose a threat to the undefeated Nyquist; we’ll take a look at three of them.
Exaggerator (Post Position: 5 Odds: 3-1)
Exaggerator will try do something that hasn’t been done since 1993, and that’s finish second in the Derby then return to capture the Preakness (Prairie Bayou was the last to do so). Exaggerator, who’s been beaten four times by Nyquist, will have a 1/16th of a mile less to work with in the Preakness (run at 1 and 3/16ths miles) compared to the Kentucky Derby (1 and 1/4 miles) to try and run him down, which doesn’t bode well. However, the forecast calls for heavy rain all day long, which could work to Exaggerator’s advantage. His best career performance came two starts ago as he won the Santa Anita Derby in the mud by over six lengths. Exaggerator will once again be ridden by Kent Desormeaux, who has won the Preakness twice in his career (1998 on Real Quiet, and 2008 on Big Brown).
Stradivari (Post Position: 11 Odds: 10-1)
The far outside post position does him no favors, but this horse probably offers the most upside of anyone in the race. He broke his maiden by 11 lengths in his second start last December, then followed that up with a 14-length allowance score in April. This is a big step up in terms of class, but he’s hinted at some serious potential. Stradivari also has the Hall-of-Fame jockey-trainer combination of John Velazquez and Todd Pletcher in his corner, and his last morning workout at Belmont was extremely fast. Stradivari has never run over a muddy or sloppy track, but his sire Medaglia d’Oro won the Travers Stakes over a sloppy track, and Stradivari broke his maiden over a Gulfstream course labeled “good.”
Uncle Lino (Post Position: 2 Odds: 30-1)
Just like Nyquist, Uncle Lino is sired by the brilliant Uncle Mo. Uncle Lino couldn’t gather enough points to qualify for the Kentucky Derby, as he finished second, third and fourth in three different Derby points races at Santa Anita, but he comes in off a gritty gate-to-wire score in the California Chrome Stakes at Los Alamitos last month in which he established a new track record for 1 and 1/16th miles. The added furlong may be a bit outside his ideal distance, but if nothing else, Uncle Lino’s presence up front could hinder Nyquist’s ability to hold off the late closers.