Well, experts like Joe Drape and aficionados like Thomas DeChiara will be rooting for Exaggerator – the Andy Murray of Thoroughbred racehorses. But I’m sticking with Nyquist for the Preakness Stakes Saturday at Pimlico Race Course in Maryland (5 p.m., NBC), where the forecast is for rain.
That shouldn’t bother Nyquist. You gotta love a horse that simply will not let anything or anyone get in front of him for too long, a horse that has the will, the sheer grit, the heart to propel himself to the front of the pack. Some animals – some people – simply must be first. Nyquist is a true Triple Crown contender, one who has much in common with Seattle Slew and my beloved Affirmed, the 1977 and ’78 TC champs respectively. (Particularly Affirmed, who would not let his great rival, Alydar, get past him in the Triple Crown races. Indeed, Alydar, who was Affirmed’s uncle, finished second in all those races that year – the only horse to finish No. 2 in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes. Had there been no Affirmed, Alydar would’ve been a Triple Crown winner.)
Of course, here we must add former New York Giants Coach Tom Coughlin’s observation that anyone can beat anyone on any given day – uttered after the Giants beat the undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII in, yes, the last five minutes. (That remains one of the highlights of my life.) And let’s not forget that Andy Murray, after losing to Novak Djokovic in the finals of the Australian and Madrid Opens, beat him in straight sets at the Italian Open, the tune-up for the French Open, last weekend.
Back to the Preakness: There’s Stradivari, a horse I’ve been hearing a lot about on bloodhorse.com. There’s the hopefully named Awesome Speed. And then there’s wildly talented – emphasis on the “wild” part – Lani, who’s the Nick Kyrgios of racehorses.
Let’s face it: There’s Nyquist and there’s Exaggerator – and the specter of Affirmed and Alydar.