I Was Wrong, Exaggerator Isn’t the Next Sham

The other day, I tweeted that “Exaggerator is the next Sham” before truly thinking about it.


It wasn’t the first time someone has tweeted quicker than their brain’s neurons could fire.

Obviously, I was making light of the fact that Nyquist “owns” Exaggerator, as the two have raced four times, with the latter getting the short-end of the stick every time.

Secretariat defeats Sham in the 1973 Kentucky Derby.

Secretariat defeats Sham in the 1973 Kentucky Derby.

Secretariat was the foil to Sham’s “woulda, coulda, shoulda-been” spectacular three-year old campaign in 1973.

As we know, Secretariat won the Triple Crown, beating Sham in each leg — from Louisville, Kentucky to Elmont, New York.

The problem is, my tongue-in-cheek tweet wasn’t entirely accurate: Sham bested Secretariat in the Wood Memorial that year. Angle Light won the race, but Sham finished second while Secretariat was a distant third.

Even the great Secretariat didn’t own another horse as badly as Nyquist seems to own Exaggerator.

So, two questions now loom:

  • Will Exaggerator ever beat Nyquist?
  • Is Nyquist approaching Secretariat-esque status?

The answer to the first question is “probably not this week.”

The answer to the second question is much more difficult. There are many people out there that think American Pharoah didn’t deserve to be compared to “Big Red,” let alone entertain the notion that the 2015 Triple Crown winner may have actually been better.

As for me, I think American Pharoah belongs in the conversation, but I’m also one that thinks Spectacular Bid was a better all-around racehorse than the mythical figure that Secretariat has become.

But that argument is for another place and time.

This week (in our best Allen Iverson voice), we’re talkin’ ‘bout Preakness. Not the Belmont. Not the Triple Crown. We’re talkin’ about Preakness.

Most folks believe that Nyquist is going to win the garland of Black-Eyed Susans on the third Saturday in May at Pimlico.

It seems to be a foregone conclusion.

Exaggerator commences his bid on the far turn on his way to victory in the Grade I Wood Memorial.

Exaggerator commences his bid on the far turn on his way to victory in the Grade I Wood Memorial.

But what about the rain predicted to descend upon the Baltimore area this weekend? Surely we saw Exaggerator turn on the jets in the sloppy Santa Anita Derby, and beat “my” Derby horse Mor Spirit (again, a story for another day)?

Of course, Nyquist fans will say, “It was an off track in the Florida Derby too, I don’t want to hear about it,” or something along those lines — depends on whom you’re arguing with.

No two tracks are exactly alike, and no two “sloppy” or “off” tracks are exactly the same; they just go into the race chart as whatever they are officially labeled at the time of the race.

Can the argument be made that Exaggerator won on a “more-off” track in the Santa Anita Derby than Nyquist did in the Florida Derby?


Does it matter?

I say “yes.”

I think if the Pimlico surface can hold up at all, even with a little moisture, Nyquist is hands-down your Preakness winner.

Will Nyquist beat Exaggerator again in the Preakness Stakes?


Quiz Maker

But if the Baltimore area gets the rain that is forecast — buckets of the stuff — is there value in playing an entrant other than Nyquist?

Again, I say “yes.”

Currently, you can bet Exaggerator, arguably the second-best three year old in North America, at fixed odds of 3/1 (+300) at USRacing.com.

What you’re really betting if you take Exaggerator at the fixed odds is:

  • You think he can handle the soup better than Nyquist.
  • You believe that Exaggerator’s post-time odds will be “shorter” (less than) than 3/1.

Or, you can really go for the gusto and bet any of the other nine entries in the field, at much better odds, and hope for a huge payoff.

Preakness OddsOn a dry track with an honest pace, Nyquist and Exaggerator are far and away the class of the field. But what if there’s a ridiculous pace to run into or there are monsoon-like rains all day Saturday?

Can we at least entertain the fact that Nyquist isn’t a “sure thing?”

For those that say “no,” you can currently bet Nyquist to win the Preakness at -190 (10/19 fractional odds). The future odds will be available until 3:00 pm Eastern time on Saturday. Once you place that bet, the odds never change, unlike pari-mutuel wagering.

But for those that like a little bit of suspense, or those that pride themselves on being contrarians because they like being right when everyone else was “wrong,” maybe taking a shot on a Cherry Wine (+2000) or Fellowship (+2600) is more your speed.

For me, I’ll keep one eye on the Weather Channel and another on Exaggerator’s odds.

Diehard Sham fans will too.

Ryan Dickey
Ryan Dickey is a full-time firefighter in Dearborn, MI, and a life-long horse racing fan. He is a handicapper and contributor to prominent horse racing Websites as well as a freelance sportswriter/photojournalist. He covers local high school sports and community events for multiple outlets, including bi-weekly newspapers and has over 200 works published to date.

Once again the owner of a race horse, Ryan is president (and currently sole member!) of Firehouse Racing Stables, LLC. This year @FirehouseRacing plans to send its first thoroughbred, That Is So Right (a 4 year old chestnut gelding), to run at tracks in Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia and, possibly, Indiana.

Having lived in Las Vegas for six years and working in the sports gaming industry, Ryan knows sports handicapping from “both sides of the counter.” Feel free to contact him on Twitter (@rdickey249) for questions, comments, criticisms, or critiques.

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