Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist, ridden by Mario Gutierrez, already was the favorite to win the Preakness. He drew a "perfect" gate Wednesday. File photo by Mark Abraham/UPI | License Photo
Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist Wednesday drew gate No. 3 for Saturday's 141st running of the Preakness Stakes and trainer Doug O'Neill said that's just fine with him.
"We really wanted No. 3," said O'Neill, who will saddle the undefeated colt in the second jewel of the Triple Crown. "It worked out perfect."
"It's in Mario's hands," he said, referring to jockey Mario Gutierrez. "We have a lot of faith in him."
Nyquist, who has been training superbly at Pimlico, was installed as the 3-5 morning-line favorite to win the second jewel of the Triple Crown and set himself up for glory in the third leg, the Belmont Stakes, on June 11 in New York.
O'Neill, Gutierrez and owner J. Paul Reddam won both the Derby and the Preakness in 2012 with I'll Have Another. That colt was injured before the Belmont, however, denying him a chance to win the Triple Crown. That feat was accomplished last year -- for the first time in 37 years -- by American Pharoah.
Only two other runners from the Kentucky Derby moved along to Saturday's 1 3/16-miles race at Pimlico in Baltimore -- "Old Hilltop". Exaggerator, who finished second at Churchill Downs and was gaining on Nyquist at the end, drew post position No. 5 and is the 3-1 second-choice on the morning line.
Exaggerator's trainer, Keith Desormeaux, said his hope to beat Nyquist, after four straight losses to him, is Exaggerator's recuperative powers.
"That's where I hang my hopes -- that his (Nyquist's) energy level won't be at its best and obviously he has to be at his best to beat Exaggerator," Desormeaux said.
The other Derby veteran is the Japanese-based Lani, who won the UAE Derby in Dubai in March, then finished eighth at Churchill Downs while fighting traffic. He drew gate No. 6 and was pegged at 30-1 on the morning line.
The best-fancied of the so-called "new shooters" is Stradivari, who comes off a devastating allowance win at Keeneland. He will start on the outside of all 10 rivals and was posted at 8-1 on the morning line.
The Baltimore weather forecast is for up to 1 inch of rain Saturday. Should that occur, it would be a question mark for several of the participants. Not so, however, for Exaggerator, who won the Santa Anita Derby in a virtual mud pit.
"It's a non-issue for us, where most horses haven't run on it," Desormeaux said. "If you want to call that an advantage, I'll take it."
Nyquist won the Florida Derby over a track officially labeled "good".
The field for Saturday's Preakness Stakes, by post position, with jockey and morning-line odds:
1. Cherry Wine, Corey Lanerie, 20-1
2. Uncle Lino, Fernando Perez, 20-1
3. Nyquist, Mario Gutierrez, 3-5
4. Awesome Speed, Jevian Toledo, 30-1
5. Exaggerator, Kent Desormeaux, 3-1
6. Lani, Yutaka Take, 30-1
7. Collected, Javier Castellano, 10-1
8. Laoban, Florent Geroux, 30-1
9. Abiding Star, J.D. Acosta, 30-1
10. Fellowship, Jose Lezcano, 30-1
11. Stradivari, John Velazquez, 8-1