Rolls To Santa Anita Derby Victory
By Dick Downey
Exaggerator used a new style of running to win the Santa Anita Derby on a sloppy track.
Taken well back off quick early fractions, he made a huge move starting on the far turn to blow by five of the other seven horses in the field and win by 6 1/4 lengths under Kent Desormeaux. Exaggerator was timed in 1:49.66 for 1 1/8 mile.
Danzing Candy, sent away at 8-5 odds, set a fast pace to set up the late run, going the first six furlongs in spits of 22.15, 45.24 and 1:10.12. After a half-mile, Exaggerator was 16 1/2 lengths in arrears and preparing to unload his knockout punch.
Mor Spirit was the betting favorite at 7-5 and finished second after stalking the pace in fourth. He was 11 lengths in front of Exaggerator after they'd run the first half-mile.
Uncle Lino finished third at 26-1 odds, 2 1/4 lengths behind Mor Spirit, after being second at each prior call of the race. Danzing Candy faded to fourth, beaten 13 1/4 lengths. Diplodicus, Denman's Call, Smokey Image and Iron Rob rounded out the order of finish.
Exaggerator earned 100 Kentucky Derby points and now has 126. Mor Spirit has 84 after picking up 40. Uncle Lino ran his total to 29 and Danzing Candy, who already had 50 points, now has 60.
Exaggerator paid $8.80, $3.60 and $2.80 as the 3-1 third choice and scooped up $600,000 of the $1 million purse.
Exaggerator had off-track experience, winning the $1 million Grade III Delta Downs Jackpot on a muddy-sealed track in November. The Grade I Santa Anita Derby was his seventh consecutive graded stakes race. He failed to hit the board in only one them, the Grade I Breeders' Cup Juvenile when he ran fourth. His other graded win was the Grade II Saratoga Special.
The late run by Exaggerator was something new for him in two-turn races. Previously he's been either on the lead or stalking it in close proximity.
Bred in Kentucky by Joseph B. Murphy, Exaggerator is by Curlin out of the Vindication mare Dawn Raid. The winning owners are Matt Bryan, known as Big Chief Racing, of Ft. Worth; Head of Plains Partners; Rocker O Ranch, and trainer Keith Desormeaux, older brother of Kent.
Exaggerator was purchased for $110,000 at the Keenelend September 2014 yearling sale.
Keith Desormeaux, trainer of Exaggerator - "For me, this is like a dream. The (Kentucky) Derby is what everybody in this business dreams of. Yes, the way he finished today and the way he galloped out…If we get a fast pace, and we should, yes, I don’t think there’s any problem with it.
"I would say (Kent and I) have a very frank relationship. If I feel a certain way about something, I don’t hold anything back, and the same for him. I’m not sure I’d talk to a Mike Smith the way I talk to Kent. We’re just very upfront about everything and express ourselves fully.”
What about Nyquist? “We haven’t been able to beat him, what five (actually three) times? I don’t know if we can or not.”
Kent Desormeaux on Exaggerator - “Well, if he shows up the first Saturday in May like he did today . . . he was ultra-confident today. He’s so mature and he walked to the gate like an old pony. He left there quiet and comfortable and I think that’s the difference, when a horse lets you drive and they’re not man-handling themselves. He reminded me of Texas Red.
“He’s that caliber of horse and it’s extra special to be with Keith, and we don’t even talk too much, it’s all quite understood. All he said in the paddock was, ‘Kent, I’m telling you that I’ve never seen this horse so confident.’ When I galloped off once I was on the track, he took to the track like a duck to water. He never missed a beat and he showed it winning today. I don’t think it has soaked in yet, I’m pretty much in shock. I’m just going to pray that unlike Texas Red, we make it there.
“He was the fourth horse that I rode in the mud today, and the others felt like they had ice skates on. Exaggerator felt like he had track shoes on. He really liked the going and I think that was part of his incredible effort today. He enjoyed the mud.
“I don’t know (if he can beat Nyquist); we’ll find out Derby Day. I heard two people say that Nyquist couldn’t handle Mohaymen. When I tried to run with him in the San Vicente and he went twenty-two and change I thought I was going to go by him like he was tied to a pole but he wouldn’t let me by. That is a very good horse.”
Ronny Ortowski, part owner of Exaggerator - “Kent just rode him perfect. It was a real good race. He’s a mud horse, and I had all the confidence in the world. He was feeling good this morning.”
Gary Stevens aboard Mor Spirit - “He warmed up great and left the gate wrong, and we got hit by the first wave of water and mud going into the first turn, he slipped with me and started lunging. He came off the bridle, and the first thing I said was, ‘This is going to be a long race.’ When Kent came by me, he actually tried to go with him – he sort of re-ignited again, but he sort of just looked after himself. I’m real proud of him to run second.”
Gary Sherlock trainer of Unclie Lino - “The track didn’t make him run any better, but I wasn’t worried about it. The biggest thing was to let him run. He ran perfect, that’s what we had in mind. The only thing that fooled me was that Iron Rob didn’t send! Uncle Lino (actually Danzing Candy) made the lead and just got run down by two pretty good horses, that’s about it.
Mike Smith, aboard Danzing Candy - "Well he (Exaggerator) was quite a bit quicker than we hoped, of course, but we kind of thought that would happen today. I was hoping he'd really take to the mud, to be honest with you, as long as I had him up underneath me he was okay but as soon as I had to let up and run along I felt like I was on roller skates out there. He just didn't grab quite a hold of it the way we hoped.