Preakness Winner Exaggerator Poised for Another Big Run at Belmont
The 148th running of the Belmont Stakes is set for Saturday, and Preakness winner Exaggerator is the one to beat as the race favorite. Many fans and bettors are going to line up on the Curlin colt, who has shown a big closing kick along with sharp speed in a number of Grade 1 races including the Preakness, Santa Anita Derby and second place finish in the Kentucky Derby.
While just three of the last 15 Belmont Stakes favorites have crossed the finish line first, including last year’s Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, it’s clear that Exaggerator looks best as we near the starting gate Saturday.
His trainer, Keith Desormeaux says the dark bay colt is ready to run a big race at Belmont.
“You couldn’t get him any better than he is now. He’s very sound, he’s very fresh. He seems very confident,” Desormeaux told reporters after Exaggerator’s walk on a sunny but blustery cool Thursday at Belmont Park.
“I talk about his antics and his energy all the time but it’s controlled energy. It’s not nervous. He’s very confident and he should be sitting on a huge race.”
Desormeaux was unconcerned about starting so far outside in the one-lap race despite the short run to the first turn.
The starting gate is positioned at the finish line for the Belmont just three-sixteenths of a mile from the clubhouse turn.
“Just because it’s a little shorter run into the first turn here, it seems it would be a disadvantage to be on the outside,” Desormeaux acknowledged.
“If I had a speed horse, I’d be worried. But Exaggerator breaks, drops the bit and relaxes so he should have plenty of opportunity to drop in closer to the rail going into that first turn.”
Desormeaux’s optimism is further fueled by confidence in his jockey, Hall of Famer Kent Desormeaux, the trainer’s younger brother who won the 2009 Belmont aboard Summer Bird among seven Triple Crown race victories.
“The more experienced, the more tactical hands you can have has got to be for the better, and I think I’ve got a pretty good jockey,” Keith Desormeaux said.
In addition, Exaggerator posted the highest Beyer Speed Figure (103) of any horse in the final Kentucky Derby prep races with his win in the Santa Anita Derby. He came out of the Derby in good shape and the won the Preakness on quick turnaround posting the best Beyer (101) in that race. If speed and stamina are key strengths to winning the grueling 1.5 mile Belmont, then Exaggerator looks best to Hall of Fame Jockey Gary Stevens as well.
“I think Exaggerator will win it (Belmont),” Stevens said. “It takes speed and stamina to win it. Speed is always dangerous in any race but you got to have stamina and you’ve got to have a patient ride.”