I felt like a proud mama on Saturday. Uncle Mo was a horse that I loved when he was racing and Curlin is my favorite thoroughbred of all time. Saturday, both of their sons (Outwork and Exaggerator) earned their tickets to the Kentucky Derby with victories in the Wood Memorial and Santa Anita Derby, respectively.
I was especially satisfied with Exaggerator’s victory. The extraordinarily talented colt has struggled in 2016 to find the winners circle.
First he ran into a buzzsaw when he faced the undefeated Nyquist in the San Vicente. Then, he had a horrible trip, while trying out a new running style, in the San Felipe.
Yesterday, after all the tough luck and bad trips, Exaggerator finally put it all together.
Employing a similar style to the one he used in the San Felipe, the son of Curlin relaxed beautifully, sitting second to last in the field of eight.
At the first quarter call Exaggerator had dropped 13 lengths off the leader, Danzing Candy, and by the time they hit opening half mile he was over 16 lengths off the pace.
It wasn’t long after that point that Danzing Candy began to come back to the field and Exaggerator began to make a bold run. As they hit the six-furlong marker, Exaggerator had narrowed the gap from 16 ½ lengths to 9 ½ lengths.
Around the turn he just kept motoring on, closing the 9 ½ length deficit and then some. By the time they reached the mile pole, he had made the lead and was four and a half lengths to the good. At this point, jockey Kent Desormeaux knew he was sitting on a powder keg.
“He was the fourth horse that I rode in the mud today and the others felt like they had ice skates on, Exaggerator felt like he had track shoes on,” noted Desormeaux.
By the time Exaggerator crossed the wire he had lengthened his advantage to 6 ½ lengths. To put his move in perspective, Exaggerator ran his third internal quarter in astounding 23.90 and his fourth (part of it around a turn) in 24.73 seconds. His final eighth was a slower 13.36, but, at the eighth pole, he was already over four lengths in front. At that point, he already had the race won and there was no reason to push for an even faster time.
Watching the Santa Anita Derby reminded me of Curlin’s brilliant move in the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic, where he made a long sustained move that saw him draw clear by over four lengths. Exaggerator’s move mirrored his father’s, right down to the track condition.
Here is to hoping Exaggerator can replicate his Santa Anita Derby effort in Kentucky. Since his first crop was eligible, Curlin has had a son represent him in the Kentucky Derby since 2013. Exaggerator looks to make it four years in a row — and I’m hoping the fourth time is a charm.