BALTIMORE — Doug O'Neill couldn't have done better if he had picked Nyquist's post position himself.
After Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist landed the No. 3 post for the Preakness in a blind draw Wednesday, O'Neill looked like a man with a winning lottery ticket.
"The 3 is exactly what I wanted," O'Neill said. "We're very optimistic that we're going to break good and get into position."
Unbeaten in eight races, Nyquist was made the overwhelming 3-5 favorite among 11 horses in Saturday's race.
His selection as the best horse in the field was justified, said Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who will saddle Collected, who didn't race in the Derby on May 7.
"I'd probably be surprised if (Nyquist) didn't win," Baffert said. "He's going to be tough to beat."
Starting from the 13th post position in the Derby, Nyquist won the 20-horse race by 11/4 lengths over Exaggerator. Nyquist can expect far less traffic against a smaller field at the Preakness, which covers 13/16 miles at Pimlico Race Course.
"He's a very mature horse that has speed away from the gate," O'Neill said. "And he doesn't like to lose."
O'Neill enters the Preakness seeking to keep alive his hopes of becoming the second straight Triple Crown winner. A year ago, American Pharoah became the 12th Triple Crown winner and the first since Affirmed in 1978.
Exaggerator has the best odds behind Nyquist at 3-1, as selected by Pimlico handicapper Keith Feustle. The horse, trained by Keith Desormeaux, drew the fifth post position.
"Being that Nyquist is speed oriented, he'll probably get pressed from the outside," Desormeaux said. "It may make him go a little faster. That could be tactically advantageous for us."
Exaggerator has finished behind Nyquist four times. Desormeaux said he doesn't want his jockey brother, Kent Desormeaux, to change tactics from the Derby. He simply wants Exaggerator to find a comfortable groove and run as close to the lead as the Hall of Fame jockey sees fit.
Japanese import Lani is the only other holdover from the Derby, where he finished ninth after struggling to compose himself in the paddock before the race. He'll start from the sixth post at 30-1.
From there, the field consists of fresh competitors looking to pull a startling upset.
Stradivari, at 8-1, was the third choice. He has the No. 11 post and is trained by Todd Pletcher, who runs horses at Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar and who is making his first Preakness appearance since 2011 with lightly raced Stradivari.
"We think he's a very good horse," Pletcher said Tuesday. "It's ambitious, but we think he deserves a chance. It might be that with only three lifetime starts, he's not quite ready for this big a jump, but we think it's worth a try, as long as he shows up and runs well, comes out of it well and continues to move forward."
O'Neill said Stradivari is the fresh horse that scares him, because of his win at Keeneland in April and because Pletcher is always a formidable competitor.
Baffert is looking for his seventh Preakness victory after last year's Triple Crown run with American Pharoah. Collected will start from the No. 7 post as a 10-1 choice in the morning line.
"This is like, take a shot here," Baffert said Wednesday morning. "We won't see any Belmont, nothing like that. It's a one-shot deal, so let's see what he does."