After last year’s amazing run by American Pharoah, it was natural to expect a Triple Crown hangover this year. Rarely have successive years produced a Triple Crown champion. Yet, most did not expect the vaulted series of races to be won by three individual horses. Whether or not this speaks of the overall depth of talent in the current crop of three-year-old thoroughbred horses remains to be seen
Nyquist-Winner of the 2016 Kentucky Derby
As winner of the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Nyquist was the favorite to capture the Kentucky Derby and the colt did not disappoint. Owned by J. Paul Reddam and trained by Doug O’Neill, the same connections that recently contended for a Triple Crown with I’ll Have Another, Nyquist face a full field of rivals in Kentucky on May 7, 2016. He was dominant throughout and held off a late charge by Exaggerator.
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Exaggerator-Winner of the 2016 Preakness Stakes
Prior to the Preakness Stakes on May 21, 2016, Exaggerator had attempted to defeat Nyquist multiple times and failed. Yet, the colt was getting closer each time, and when race day dawned at Pimlico in Baltimore, even the heavens appeared to be on the colt’s side. Exaggerator’s best prior performance had come on a rain-soaked track. Trainer Keith Desormeaux and rider Kent, his brother, must have been very happy when a torrent of rain soaked the track. True to his prior form, Exaggerator dominated the field of horses to win. Nyquist was third.
Creator-Winner of the 2016 Belmont Stakes
It was announced before the Belmont Stakes on June 11 that Nyquist would not be making the trip to New York to engage Exaggerator in the final race of the series. Exaggerator was left to contend with several new shooters in an effort to claim the Belmont. Trainer Steve Asmussen had a plan to defeat the colt, however, and it worked to perfection. Asmussen entered two horses in the race. Gettysburg was placed in the race as a “rabbit” or pacesetter. The colt’s job was to set a fast pace early in the hopes that Exaggerator would tire and be overcome by Creator. As things played out, Exaggerator never became involved in the race at all. Other horses chased the blistering pace of Gettysburg and Creator was able to close in the stretch and win.
Three races, three winners
Some are probably asking, why does this matter? Three separate horses winning the Triple Crown races is significant for a few reasons, especially to those that like to bet on horseracing.
First, the indications are strong that this crop of classic horses are all closely matched in talent. There doesn’t seem to be a clearly superior horse such as American Pharoah was last year. For handicappers, this opens up some great betting opportunities in the second half of 2016. Races like the Haskell Invitational, Travers Stakes, and Breeders’ Cup Classic are wide open and will be more difficult to handicap in the hopes of picking a winner.
Secondly, new shooters will continue to appear throughout the year and some horses that ran in the Triple Crown series will continue to develop. This could produce some great payoffs if bettors can identify horses that appear to be late bloomers.
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