For months, the Kentucky Derby has felt like a two horse race between Mohaymen and Nyquist. At the closing of the final pool for the KDFW, Nyquist led the pack at 3/1 with Mohaymen posting an 8/1 number as the standalone second favorite. Now he has company in the form of Exaggerator.
The Santa Anita Derby winner is now reaching odds of 8/1 across multiple platforms after closing the final pool of the KDFW at 27/1. It’s a remarkable turn of events that seems to be leaving Mohaymen behind. There’s good reason for that.
Nyquist used the Florida Derby as his main (and only) Kentucky Derby prep race, and trounced a field at the 1 1/8th mile race that included Mohyamen. With a time of 1:49.11 on a fast, dry track, Nyquist essentially took the lead at the second turn and literally never looked back. It was the resounding performance that he needed to justify retaking his place at the horse to beat in the Triple Crown series.
Mohaymen seemed vastly uninterested in competing at the Florida Derby, which may be a result of him running in five Kentucky Derby prep races since last November. He has won almost all of them, but the wheels fall off the bandwagon at Gulfstream and critics worry that he has nothing left in the tank after competing so much during the lead up to the Triple Crown series.
That certainly doesn’t mean an end to the rivalry between Mohaymen and Nyquist, but they suddenly have legitimate reasons to fear a third contender who competed a week later. Exaggerator inhaled the field at the Santa Anita Derby using a late surge around the bend in to the homestretch to bury the copmetition on a horrendously muddy track. He finished with a time of 1:49.66 over 1 1/8th miles.
Conditions are vital to assessing a horse’s performance in a race which is why the Beyer speed figures exist in the first place. This speed rating adjusts for all things a horse endures during a given race with precise detail, allowing for horses to be compared from different races run under different circumstances.
To cut to the chase, Exaggerator posted a remarkable 103 Beyer Speed Figure at Santa Anita, which is the fastest in the three-year old class this season. Nyquist has posted a 101 Beyer Speed Figure by comparison but over a much shorter distance. Their times at the 1 1/8th mile distance are also vastly comparable given the harsh conditions that Exaggerator had to contend with as well. Exaggerator is right up there with Nyquist, which is likely why WinStar went out and purchased his breeding rights this week.
There’s still some work to be done. Some will credit Exaggerator as a horse that simply runs far better on wet surfaces than he does elsewhere. Others will convincingly stake that Nyquist is unbeatable, which also looks to be the case. But the fact that oddsmakers are shading heavy on Exaggerator already suggests that he’s much more of a contender than people have given him credit for recently.
The 2016 Kentucky Derby continues to get more interesting by the minute. If you need convincing, watch Exaggerator destroy all others at the Santa Anita Derby. Speed like that? In the mud? I can see why the oddsmakers are scared of him.