Gun Runner Skips Preakness, Leaving Likely Field of 11

When the Preakness Stakes gets underway Saturday, there is every reason to believe that Nyquist will follow up his Kentucky Derby victory by notching another commanding win.

While it will not be an easy task for Uncle Lino to hold off the likes of Nyquist and Exaggerator, he will go to the lead in the 2016 Preakness Stakes.

"He was great", O'Neill said of Nyquist's gate and paddock training. But there's other speed outside, too. "With our [closing] running style it's inconsequential. So we feel good about number three".

Even the rain predicted for Saturday seemed to strike his connections as a mere inconvenience.

And Nyquist is unbeaten in eight starts, while American Pharoah was five for six for heading into the Preakness. He'll start from the sixth post as a 30-1 choice in the morning line.

Exaggerator trainer Keith Desormeaux is optimistic about his horse's chances. I think Nyquist is going to (face) something new, which is being very crowded. His demeanor and body looked the same 24 hours after the Kentucky Derby. "The strongest attribute that Exaggerator's has is his ability to recover".

With an 11-horse field instead of 20 at Churchill Downs, Exaggerator should have more room to make his push.

"Being that Nyquist is speed oriented, he'll probably get pressed from the outside", Desormeaux said.

Japanese import Lani is the only other holdover from the May 7 Derby, where he finished ninth after struggling to compose himself in the paddock before the race. Last year, American Pharoah got the No. 1 post position along the rail and navigated a sloppy track to win easily.

From there, the field of 11 consists of fresh competitors looking to pull a startling upset. Or maybe now that the 37-year drought has ended, winning the Triple Crown just isn't as big a deal. Second is worth $300,000 and third $160,000, far more than most winner's shares, so why not take a shot?

The rest of the horses have yet to beat any horse with celebrity status.

Todd Pletcher's flashy but lightly raced Stradivari also is expected to compete as is Alan Goldberg's Awesome Speed, who gained automatic entry to the Preakness when he won the Frederico Tesio Stakes (via disqualification) last month at Maryland's Laurel Racetrack. "He still continues to talk to us in his own way, and he's doing really well".

"I remember nothing but planes, trains and automobiles", he said. He's trained by Mikio Matsunaga and ridden by Yutaka Take. He said his horse isn't as good as Nyquist but could be opportunistic if the favorite slips up.

Trainer Dale Romans (Cherry Wine, Post 1: 20-1): "My jockey, Corey Lanerie, loves to come up the fence".

After Kentucky Derby victor 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. "He's going to have to regress a bit".

Pletcher is well aware Stradivari is taking on much-more experienced 3-year-olds, but "from a talent standpoint he belongs".

The main weapon of Uncle Lino is his early speed, and he will utilize it in the Preakness according to trainer Gary Sherlock.

Nyquist was the third straight Derby victor that trained all winter in California.

He was transferred to Casse's stable in April, and his talent has surprised the trainer. Posts 9 through 13 have been the starting spot for 12 winners combined.