Triple Crown Contender Profile – Exaggerator

It's no exaggeration to say that Exaggerator is one of the most consistent colts in this year's three-year-old crop. He won a pair of graded races last year at two and put it all together in his third start at three, a sensational victory in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) on April 9.

Exaggerator made his racing debut on June 5, 2015 in a 5-furlong Maiden Special at Santa Anita. He finished a non-threatening 5th that day, 9 1/2-lengths behind a horse named Nyquist. For trivia's sake Annie's Candy was the odds-on favorite over the two eventual Kentucky Derby favorites.

Exaggerator went off as the 2-1 choice in his next start, a 6F Maiden Special at Del Mar and got the money by a nose. Trainer Keith Desormeaux then shipped his budding star east for a very gutsy win in the Saratoga Special (G2). Under jockey Junior Alvarado, the colt was bottled up behind three horses at the top of the stretch before bullying his way between rivals to gain the advantage. He still had a fight on his hands as the Todd Pletcher-trained Saratoga Mischief didn't give up easily. Exaggerator prevailed by 3/4-length at the wire.

With Desormeaux's Hall of Fame brother Kent back in the saddle, Exaggerator performed well when stretched out to two turns last fall. He was runner up to Keeneland-loving Brody's Cause in the Breeders' Futurity (G1) and 4th to old friend Nyquist in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) before a rich victory in the Delta Jackpot S. (G3) in the Desormeaux's home state of Louisiana.

There were questions about Exaggerator's distance capabilities from fans, handicappers and even his own trainer before his emphatic 9-furlong victory in the Santa Anita Derby. From a pedigree standpoint Classic distances should be within his capabilities. His sire, Curlin, is a two-time Horse of the Year with wins in the Preakness Stakes (G1), Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) and Dubai World Cup (G1) on his racing ledger. At stud his scorecard shows runners like Belmont Stakes (G1) champion Palace Malice and 2015 Travers S. (G1) hero Keen Ice.

Although his dam, Dawn Raid, is a granddaughter of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew his female line is slanted more toward speed. In her racing days Dawn Raid set a 5-furlong track record at Woodbine. She's the daughter of a multiple stakes-placed sprinter and sister to Canadian champion Embur's Song, who was best up to 8.5-furlongs. A little further back in the pedigree we find a champion sprinter (Eternal Search) as well as a Queen's Plate winner (Niigon).

In terms of the Kentucky Derby, the main drawback with Exaggerator may be his form cycle. He popped his best race third off a layoff over a sloppy surface he relished. But bettors searching for a safe and consistent horse (likely at a square price in a 20-horse field) could do worse than Exaggerator. It also helps that he's fast and courageous too.