13 starts, six wins, three seconds, and one third.
That is the record of Exaggerator, who will be running in the 2016 Travers Stakes and has been installed as the morning line favorite.
There are quite a few that are under the impression that Exaggerator is simply a “mudder,” a horse that can only pull off a win in the mud. It is understandable given that some of his greatest performances have come over off tracks, but, alas, it is still a wrong impression.
In his career second start, Exaggerator broke his maiden over a fast surface at Del Mar. He closed three lengths from the stretch call to the wire, running that final furlong in 11.79 seconds — pretty impressive for a horse that can’t stand a dry track.
His next start came less than one month later, in the Saratoga Special (GII). It was another close victory, but the son of Curlin closed strongly once again, getting the final 2 ½ furlongs in :30.79 and his final sixteenth in 6.38 seconds.
Now, I’m pretty sure with that win, Exaggerator won his second race in a row over a fast track. Not only that, the win was in a graded stakes, over the very track the Travers Stakes (GI) is run over.
Good golly, with how some people are talking, you’d think that race was in the mud too.
It is true that Exaggerator’s biggest wins have all come in the mud, but he has plenty of good performances over dry tracks as well. One of those was the San Vicente (GII).
If you are having some memory troubles, let me refresh it for you. Exaggerator chased Nyquist, the same Nyquist that took the Kentucky Derby while undefeated, around the track. He made a bid going four-wide, but fell just short of his nemesis. The final time was 1:20.71. It wasn’t a win, but the performance was outstanding nonetheless.
In his next start, Exaggerator finished second to Nyquist in the Kentucky Derby, again over a track rated as “fast.” That day, Exaggerator made multiple moves, the first between the first half-mile and three-quarters, where he made up seven and a half lengths.
He hit a bit of traffic and only made up one and one quarter lengths from the six furlong- to mile-marker, but, once clear, he began his rally again. From the mile point the finish, Exaggerator made up another seven and three quarter lengths.
For a horse who supposedly doesn’t run his race over a fast track, Exaggerator has put together some really nice performances over surfaces rated “fast.”
I realize that many will point to his poor showing in the Belmont Stakes (GI) to validate their belief that Exaggerator is nowhere near as good over a dry surface. I’ve got news for them: That is one race.
Hear that? One race compared to the four very good and valiant efforts that I just recounted. The Belmont represented Exaggerator’s third race in five weeks and his sixth race in less than 16 weeks. For those who like numbers, that is an average of one race every two weeks and five days.
After never finishing worse than third up to that point in the season and putting together three huge performances in a row, the colt was due for a regression in the Belmont.
Exaggerator has performed admirably on tracks rated “fast” his entire career, even winning on them. The notion that he can’t win, or perform well enough to win on them is completely unfounded.