NEW YORK — Even without a Triple Crown on the line, there's always a slice of history waiting at the finish line of the Belmont Stakes.
Where Exaggerator ends up in the record books will be determined today, when the Preakness winner takes on a dozen rivals in the 148th running of the final leg of the Triple Crown at Belmont Park.
Nyquist beat Exaggerator by 11/2 lengths in the Kentucky Derby last month, but the determined runnerup came back two weeks later and splashed his way to victory in the Preakness. Nyquist is skipping the Belmont after a recent fever, so Exaggerator comes into the 11/2-mile race known as the "Test of the Champion" as the early 9-5 favorite leaving from the No. 11 post.
With Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux aboard the 3-year-old colt trained by his brother, Keith, Exaggerator will attempt to become the 12th horse to take the Preakness and Belmont after falling short in the Derby, and first since Afleet Alex in 2005.
A win and Exaggerator would join a select group of Derby runnersup who went on to win the Preakness and Belmont, the last being Nashua in 1955. The others were Native Dancer (1953), Capot (1949) and Bimelech (1940).
This is all new for Keith Desormeaux, whose brother is one of the most successful riders in the game. Keith has been training for more than a quarter-century. Finally he's made it to the top. And his horse is allowing him to feel confident.
"What's cool for me? There's no issues with this horse," the trainer said Friday morning after Exaggerator returned from a gallop. "He's eating well. The energy's there. The color is good. As far as my preparation and the expectations of what we've done through the horse, I really can't ask my horse to be doing any better. He doesn't seem to be showing the rigors of three top races in five weeks.
"That's usually the No. 1 concern, right? It looks like he's thriving off of it, so that's pretty cool."