The long awaited rematch between Nyquist and Exaggerator is upon us as both three-year old champions continue preparations for the Haskell Invitational. It’s been just two months since the pair last squared off, with Exaggerator finally edging his rival at the Preakness Stakes. Nyquist won their previous three meetings, including the Kentucky Derby.
Even with big Triple Crown wins in their back pocket, both horses have plenty of making up to do. Nyquist struggled in the muck at Pimlico his last time out and lost his first ever race with a third place finish. Exaggerator, meanwhile, finished 2nd and 1st at the first two legs until he fell apart at the Belmont Stakes and drifted to a disappointing 11th place check as the favorite. Both have been regrouping steadily as they prepare for a showdown at the Haskell Invitational.
“If we really want to compete for 3-year-old colt of the year, we need to race Nyquist and the Haskell sets up. It’s a grade one worth a lot of money, so it’s very exciting,” owner Matt Bryan stated regarding Exaggerator. “We’ve gone back and looked at that race; I’m not going to say certain things publicly but I can tell you I think we could have been right in the mix of everything if we’d changed a couple things,” Bryan continued. “That’s Keith saying that, he’s the trainer, he’s the man, not me.”
Keith Desormeaux was quick to reiterate those sentiments. “Obviously, our end-of-season goal is to be able to run in the Classic,” Desormeaux echoed. “If we’re lucky enough to win the Haskell, we’re talking about major savings. So from the economic angle it was the obvious choice, plus it also sets up for Exaggerator as far as the pace is concerned.” Desormeaux was quick to point out American Freedom, trained by Bob Baffert, as in the mix as well. “With Baffert’s horse and Nyquist in the race, it assures a hot pace,” continued the trainer. “Also, Exaggerator has nothing to prove to me, but if we want to reach for the highest of goals, which is 3-year-old championship honors, he’s going to have to beat the best out there.”
Nyquist and Exaggerator are the obvious best bets with Gun Runner and American Freedom not far behind. The rest of the field will be rounded out by Brody’s Cause, Awesome Slew and Sunny Ridge.
The Haskell Invitational will run on Sunday, July 31st with a $1 million purse earned over a 1 1/8th mile distance and we all know which horses we’re all going to be paying attention to. Exaggerator and Nyquist in a box is the bet to make.