Exaggerator rallied from far back and powered away to a dominant win in the $1-million Santa Anita Derby on Saturday at Santa Anita Park. (Photo by Eclipse Sportswire)
The only horse in the $1-millon Santa Anita Derby field to win on a wet track sure looked like he loved the slop April 9. Displaying almost the exact same move he made in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes, when he moved up entering the turn to challenge but tired late, Exaggerator found another gear Saturday at Santa Anita Park.
Under jockey Kent Desormeaux, the 3-year-old Curlin colt raced as many as 14 3/4 lengths back early, but he blew by the front-runners, took command in the stretch and pulled away to win by 6 1/4 lengths from runner-up Mor Spirit. Uncle Lino, who raced in second, tracking early leader and San Felipe winner Danzing Candy, gamely finished another 2 1/4 lengths back in third.
“He was the fourth horse that I rode in the mud today, and the others felt like they had ice skates on,” Desormeaux said. “Exaggerator felt like he had track shoes on. He really liked the going and I think that was part of his incredible effort today. He enjoyed the mud.”
Danzing Candy blazed in the early running — ticking off quarter-mile fractions of :22.15, :45.24 and 1:10.11 through six furlongs — and tired in the stretch to come in fourth, 4 3/4 lengths
“I was hoping he’d really take to the mud,” said jockey Mike Smith, who rode Danzing Candy. “To be honest with you, as long as I had him up underneath me, he was OK, but as soon as I had to let up and run along, I felt like I was on roller skates out there. He just didn’t grab quite a hold of it the way we hoped.”
Favored Mor Spirit (7-5), who raced in fourth most of sloppy trek, passed Uncle Lino in the final sixteenth of a mile, but never challenged the winner.
Exaggerator finished off the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.66.
“He came off the bridle and the first thing I said was, ‘This is going to be a long race.’ ” Mor Spirit’s jockey, Gary Stevens said. “When Kent came by me, he actually tried to go with him. He sort of reignited again, but he sort of just looked after himself.”
It was the third graded stakes win and first Grade 1 victory for Exaggerator, who is owned by Big Chief Racing, Head of Plains Partners, and Rocker O Ranch, et al.
“Today, we had a great pace scenario and he took full advantage,” winning trainer Keith Desormeaux said. “For me, this is like a dream. I mean, the [Kentucky] Derby is what everybody in this business dreams of.”
Off as the 3.40-1 third choice, Exaggerator paid $8.80, $3.60, and $2.80 across the board. Mor Spirit paid $2.80 to place and $2.40 to show, and Uncle Lino delivered $5 to show. Diplodocus closed from last to finish fifth, followed by Denman’s Call, Smokey Image, and Iron Rob to complete the order of finish.
Bred in Kentucky by Joseph Murphy, out of the Vindication mare Dawn Raid, Exaggerator now has a four wins, two seconds and one third from nine starts and $1,671,120 in earnings.
Keith Desormeaux said after the race that Exaggerator probably will train at Santa Anita in preparation for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and the ship to Churchill Downs the Monday or Tuesday before the run for the roses.
But can he flip the script on the probable Kentucky Derby favorite, Nyquist? The undefeated son of Uncle Mo has bested Exaggerator in all three of their meetings.
"We’ll find out Derby Day," Kent Desormeaux said.
For an Equibase chart, click here.
EXAGGERATOR DOMINATED IN THE SANTA ANITA DERBY
Photo by Eclipse Sportswire