NEW YORK (AP) — The post position worked out well for Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux, leaving him hopeful for a clear path to sweep to victory aboard Exaggerator in the Belmont Stakes on Saturday.
Exaggerator, the Preakness winner, drew an outside No. 11 post in a 13-horse field on Wednesday and was made the 9-5 morning-line favorite for the final leg of the Triple Crown, a 1 1/2-mile lap around cavernous Belmont Park.
“It’s a wonderful, wonderful position,” Desormeaux said. “I can’t see any horse that would cross over on him. I’d like to establish position preferably without him getting a grain of sand in his face.”
And if that happens, and “if I could have a dream run … I dream him forwardly placed and just being able, dreamingly, to decide when to pull the trigger.”
In the Preakness, Exaggerator stormed into the lead at the head of stretch and splashed his way to a 3 1/2-length win, handing Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist the first loss of his career.
With no Triple Crown on the line and Nyquist sitting out the Belmont after recently recovering from a fever, there’s little buzz surrounding the race. That doesn’t bother Desormeaux, or his brother, Keith, Exaggerator’s trainer.
“I’m truly very excited for Exaggerator, more thrilled that I’m here with my brother Keith,” Kent said. “I just hope the story continues and we write another chapter.”
Challengers are lined up, with four trainers have two horses each in the field: Todd Pletcher, Dale Romans, Steve Asmussen and Dallas Stewart.
Pletcher could be the most formidable foe with 5-1 second choice Stradivari and 6-1 third-choice Destin. Romans will send out Preakness runner-up Cherry Wine (8-1) and Derby also-ran Brody’s Cause (20-1), winner of the Blue Grass Stakes. Asmussen trains 10-1 shot Creator and last-minute entry Gettysburg, a 30-1 long shot likely to set the pace in a field loaded with closers. Stewart has a pair of 30-1 long shots in Forever d’Oro and Seeking the Soul.
“I think it’s a wide open field and I think Exaggerator is a deserving favorite,” two-time Belmont winner Pletcher said, adding that his two colts have “both shown that on their days they’re capable of running with the best of this crop.”
Stradivari, who ran fourth in the Preakness in his stakes debut, drew the No. 5 post and will be ridden by John Velazquez; Destin, sixth in the Derby, drew the No. 2 post and will be ridden by Javier Castellano.
Cherry Wine came flying down the stretch to nip Nyquist for second in the Preakness, and has improved his finish in each of his last three starts, from fourth to third to second.
“I hope we’re sitting on a big race,” Romans said. “His Belmont pedigree says he’s set to go a mile-and-a-half as well as anyone else.”