Exaggerator (Dawn Raid, by Vindication) has come a long way from being some 28/1 longshot who finished a well-beaten fifth behind Nyquist at Del Mar on debut.
He returned next out, ran into some trip trouble, and still managed to graduate by a nose. He then shipped to Saratoga, ran into even more trip trouble, and still managed to come home a winner of the Saratoga Special (GII).Keeneland came next on Exaggerator’s dance card. In the Breeders’ Futurity, he went off the favourite, and looked like he would run to that when he took over in the stretch. However, he is two…and he had a few things to learn. Once he got the lead, he got a little overconfident…just enough for Brody’s Cause to roll by and win by a length. Still, his resume was good enough to make the Breeders’ Cup a logical goal — and the bettors sent him off the 4.7/1 co-second choice with Nyquist, behind only Greenpointcrusader. He tracked along the rail, in range, but did not quite have enough that day. He finished fourth behind the same horse who won his maiden outing — the putative champion, Nyquist.
Exaggerator shipped back to Santa Anita to regroup. He posted a sharp five-furlong move on November 14, and then made plans to ship to the Bayou. It made sense: Exaggerator could get a bit of a class drop from his last couple of starts, and get a shot at a million dollar purse. It was anyone’s guess whether he would handle the bullring, but he had travelled before, and he had class for days.
He would have to draw on that class.
Given the track configuration at Delta, Exaggerator had plenty of time to get from his 9 hole to somewhere where he would not lose significant ground before the field hit the first turn. He chased a couple of lengths back, but as the field hit the first turn, he charged up to press 224/1 longshot Iron Dome. Through the clubhouse turn, Exaggerator passed Iron Dome for the lead, striking the front at an earlier stage than he had in any of his previous races.
The longest shot on the board dropped back along the backstretch, but Exaggerator faced two new challengers to his outside: Whitmore and Sunny Ridge. Whitmore could not sustain his bid, but Sunny Ridge kept coming. He drew head-and-head with Exaggerator. Exaggerator drew a bit ahead as the field turned for home, but Sunny Ridge would not quit. He came right back at Exaggerator, but this time the son of Curlin clung to his lead better than he did in the Breeders’ Futurity. He kept pushing, and crossed the wire a neck to the good of a game Sunny Ridge.
The margin may have been tight, but the fact that he held on shows that he is learning. After he got a bit overconfident on the front end in the Breeders’ Futurity, he dug in and rebuffed a gritty rival. The Derby Trail is a long road ahead…but this race showed he is headed the right way.