Nyquist draws post 3, made 3-5 fa­vorite

Daily Racing Form Saturday Stakes Preview - - FRONT PAGE - – Jay Priv­man

BAL­TI­MORE – Nyquist, the Ken­tucky Derby win­ner, drew post 3 when a field of 11 was as­signed their stalls Wed­nes­day night for the 141st Preak­ness Stakes on Satur­day at Pim­lico.

Nyquist has won all eight of his starts and will be a pro­hib­i­tive fa­vorite in the Preak­ness. Both Mike Watch­maker,

na­tional hand­i­cap­per, and Keith Feustle, who makes the line at Pim­lico, in­stalled Nyquist as the odd­son fa­vorite at 3-5. If that holds, it will mark the fourth time that Nyquist has been odds-on.

Ex­ag­ger­a­tor, who fin­ished sec­ond in the Derby and looms as the main ri­val again for Nyquist, drew post 5. He is 7-2 on Watch­maker’s line and 3-1 on Feustle’s line. Both Watch­maker and Feustle have Stradi­vari the race’s third choice at 8-1 .

There were no sur­prises at en­try time, as the 11 ear­marked as def­i­nite for the race on Tues­day were the ones en­tered.

From the rail out, the field lines up as fol­lows: Cherry Wine, Un­cle Lino, Nyquist, Awe­some Speed, Ex­ag­ger­a­tor, Lani, Col­lected, Laoban, Abid­ing Star, Fel­low­ship, and Stradi­vari.

Of the 11, only Nyquist, Ex­ag­ger­a­tor, and Lani – ninth in the Derby – ran in the first leg of the Triple Crown. The other eight en­trants skipped the Derby to run here.

Of par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est is that there are speed horses on ei­ther side of Nyquist, so it will be in­ter­est­ing to see if Nyquist is sent away from the gate or if jockey Mario Gu­tier­rez elects to sit just off the lead­ers, as he did in the Derby.

“With his speed, post po­si­tion is not as im­por­tant,” said Doug O’neill, who trains Nyquist. “It’s in Mario’s hands. We have a lot of faith in him.”

O’neill is seek­ing his sec­ond Preak­ness win, hav­ing won it four years ago with I’ll Have An­other, who also won the 2012 Derby.

By con­trast, last year’s Derby-win­ning trainer is only a

char­ac­ter ac­tor this year.

As the colt Col­lected made his way back to the stakes barn at Pim­lico on Wed­nes­day morn­ing, his trainer, Bob Baf­fert, came walk­ing up, trailed by a me­dia throng of ex­actly one, a jour­nal­ist who is work­ing on a book on Baf­fert. It’s a far cry from last year, when he had brought in the pop­u­lar Amer­i­can Pharoah fol­low­ing a Derby win, along with Dort­mund.

“Dif­fer­ent feel?” Baf­fert said, re­spond­ing to a ques­tion. He looked around. His me­dia throng had dou­bled.

He’s not both­ered by it. More like be­mused. Cool, calm, and Col­lected. Baf­fert knows he’s not play­ing with the strong­est hand this year.

“Last year, I just stepped back and watched – let’s see what you got now, boy,” he said of Amer­i­can Pharoah.

“Nyquist is a really good horse,” Baf­fert said. “Eight wins in a row. It’s like with Cal­i­for­nia Chrome. Af­ter he won the Derby, peo­ple went, ‘Oh, he is for real.’ He has a win­ning at­ti­tude. He re­minds me of Smarty Jones. Ex­plo­sive. He ran a pretty fast Derby. He kept run­ning. He was pretty im­pres­sive.”

Baf­fert pointed Col­lected to the Preak­ness af­ter his vic­tory in the Lex­ing­ton Stakes at Keeneland on April 16. Col­lected would not have had enough points to make the 20-horse Derby field any­way, but Baf­fert had de­cided to keep him out of the Derby fol­low­ing a fourth­place fin­ish in the South­west Stakes at Oak­lawn on Feb. 15.

Col­lected has won two straight since the South­west, hav­ing cap­tured the Sun­land Fes­ti­val of Racing – this year’s sub­sti­tute for the Sun­land Derby – prior to the Lex­ing­ton.

“He’s get­ting bet­ter,” Baf­fert said. “I think cam­paign­ing him like that helped him get bet­ter. He’s been hang­ing on the lower branches.”

Baf­fert has won the Preak­ness six times, in­clud­ing with all four of his Derby win­ners – Sil­ver Charm, Real Quiet, War Em­blem, and Amer­i­can Pharoah. Those six wins – from just 17 starters – tie him for sec­ond with D. Wayne Lukas for the most Preak­ness wins among train­ers. They trail only R.W. Walden, who won the Preak­ness seven times be­tween 1875 – the third run­ning of the Preak­ness – and 1888.

Baf­fert’s record in the Preak­ness with horses who skipped the Derby is not as strong. Of his 17 prior Preak­ness starters, only three – Senor Swinger in 2003, Govenor Char­lie in 2014, and Bay­ern in 2014 – did not run in the Derby, and the best any of them has done is a fifth by Senor Swinger.

“I think he’ll step up,” Baf­fert said of Col­lected. “I think he’ll be very com­pet­i­tive. I felt like he de­served a chance, the way he ran last time. He brings it ev­ery time.”

Col­lected ar­rived here on Tues­day, as did Baf­fert, who on Wed­nes­day morn­ing was be­gin­ning to re­cover from a postDerby cold that was at its worst last week­end.

Laoban also ar­rived on Tues­day, trav­el­ing with Col­lected from Ken­tucky. Laoban has a patch on the inside of a hoof, which trainer Eric Guil­lot said was needed af­ter Laoban stepped on him­self and tore off a shoe. Laoban was en­tered as blink­ers off for the Preak­ness.

Un­cle Lino was on a flight that be­gan early Tues­day in Cal­i­for­nia and stopped in Ken­tucky to pick up Col­lected and Laoban. Be­cause of the length of the trip, Un­cle Lino merely walked the shed row at the stakes barn Wed­nes­day.

Nyquist and Ex­ag­ger­a­tor have been here longer than any Preak­ness en­trants, more than a week in the case of Nyquist. He jogged two miles Wed­nes­day with ex­er­cise rider Jonny Gar­cia, along­side a pony rid­den by as­sis­tant Jack Sis­ter­son.

“Very nice, papa,” Gar­cia said to O’neill upon re­turn­ing to the barn.

At Bel­mont Park, Lani was of­fi­cially timed in 1:01.50 for a five-fur­long work Wed­nes­day. He was slated to be sent by van to Pim­lico on Thurs­day.

All Preak­ness horses were re­quired to be on the grounds by noon Thurs­day.

BAR­BARA D. LIV­INGSTON

Col­lected, with as­sis­tant trainer Jimmy Barnes, won the Grade 3 Lex­ing­ton Stakes last out.

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