Ahead of Wednesday's post position draw for the 2016 Preakness Stakes, all eyes are on Nyquist and his pursuit of the second Triple Crown in as many years.
While the draw could have a slight impact on how Nyquist's chances are viewed entering the race, the relatively small field means jockey Mario Gutierrez should be able to position him favorably regardless of where they start from.
With post positions not yet being a factor, here is a look at the current odds to win the 141st Run for the Black-Eyed Susans and predictions for how the top three will play out.
|2016 Preakness Stakes Odds|
As the Kentucky Derby winner and an undefeated horse with a record of 8-0, there is no question that the target is firmly on Nyquist's back entering the Preakness Stakes.
Every indication is that he is by far the top horse in the field, and he proved that at Churchill Downs by blowing away the competition with the exception of a late run by Exaggerator.
The prevailing school of thought is that something has to go wrong with Nyquist or his trip to lose the Preakness, which may not be outside the realm of possibility if the weather plays a significant role.
Rain is likely Saturday at Pimlico Race Course, but trainer Doug O'Neill doesn't believe it will have much of an impact on his colt, according to David Grening of Daily Racing Form (h/t ESPN.com):
I don't think it'll affect him in a negative way. You got to be sure-footed to do what he's done at all the different tracks. We got a wet track there at Gulfstream. That didn't seem to affect him in a negative way, so I don't see it as a negative. Rain or shine, as long as he's doing well, we've got a real good chance.
Even if the track is sloppy, every horse in the field will be dealing with the same problem, so it likely won't do much to hinder Nyquist's chances.
There is some uncertainty entering the Preakness since much of the field is made up of horses who didn't run in the Kentucky Derby, but none have anywhere near the resume that Nyquist possesses.
This race is Nyquist's to lose, and there is no reason to believe he'll fall short in his efforts to gain the second gem of the Triple Crown.
It will likely take a significant X-factor for Nyquist to lose the Preakness, and there is none bigger than the presence of Stradivari.
The Todd Pletcher-trained colt has competed in just three races, and although he has pulled off convincing victories in each of his past two outings, he has yet to take part in a stakes race.
Despite the lack of experience, he is viewed as perhaps the biggest threat to Nyquist. Mike Joyce of TVG is among those who believe Stradivari is in his level of ability:
He'll also enter the Preakness fresher than Nyquist and the other horses who took part in the Derby, although Pletcher isn't necessarily convinced that gives him a significant advantage, per Jonathan Lintner of the Courier-Journal:
On one side of it you have a fresh horse that hasn't been through the rigors of the prep series and a race like the Derby. On the other side of the coin you have a horse that's pretty light on experience and is giving up some seasoning to some horses that have been on that campaign. You might gain a bit in one area and lose a bit in the other, but historically I think it takes a pretty special horse to be able to compete in races like that against these types of horses. We are really impressed with the way he's run and the way he's trained.
The eye test says that Stradivari is a dynamic horse who may be closer than anyone else in the field to matching Nyquist's physical capabilities.
That may be the case, but Stradivari has never run in a race anywhere near as big as the Preakness, and he has never come up against a horse the caliber of Nyquist.
While Stradivari may have the tools to push Nyquist and finish in the money, it won't be enough to unseat the Kentucky Derby winner.
Had the Kentucky Derby been a slightly longer race, Exaggerator may very well have handed Nyquist his first loss.
That hypothetical wasn't reality, however, and since the Preakness is a half-furlong shorter, Exaggerator may have an even tougher time pulling off the upset at Pimlico.
The fact that Exaggerator had so much energy left in reserve was extremely impressive at Churchill Downs, and it does lend itself to some optimism if jockey Kent Desormeaux decides to make a move to the front earlier in the Preakness.
Trainer Keith Desormeaux believes he'll have a healthy and in-form horse on his hands due to Exaggerator's ability to bounce back from one race to the next, according to Jonas Shaffer of the Baltimore Sun:
Obviously, numbers-wise, horse-for-horse-wise, it's tough to think we can beat [Nyquist], right? But ... the strongest attribute that Exaggerator has is his ability to recover, and as you know, this Preakness is run back in two weeks. That's not normal in this day and age, to run a horse back that quickly.
While Desormeaux may be accurate in his analysis, Candice Hare of Fox AM1340 pointed out that there still isn't any reason to believe that Exaggerator is capable of beating Nyquist:
Exaggerator is likely to be a factor Saturday, but if Desormeaux makes a move earlier, it may also raise the chances of him losing steam down the stretch.
The addition of Stradivari will move Exaggerator down the board, and while he'll still finish in the money, his inability to get one over on Nyquist will remain intact.
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