BALTIMORE (AP) — Doug O’Neill couldn’t have done any better if he picked Nyquist’s post position himself.
After Kentucky Derby winner 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.
“The 3 is exactly what I wanted,” O’Neill said. “... We’re very optimistic that we’re going to break good and get into position.”
Unbeaten in eight races, Nyquist was made the overwhelming 3-5 favorite among 11 horses in Saturday’s race.
His selection as the best horse in the field was justified, according to Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who will saddle new shooter Collected.
“I’d probably be surprised if he didn’t win,” Baffert said about Nyquist. “He’s going to be tough to beat.”
Secretariat started from the 3-hole to win the 1973 Preakness, but California Chrome in 2014 was the only horse to win from third post since 1993.
Starting from the 13th post position in the Derby, Nyquist won the 20-horse race by 1 1/4 lengths over Exaggerator. Nyquist can expect far less traffic against a smaller field at the Preakness, which covers 1 3/16th miles at Pimlico Race Course.
“He’s a very mature horse that has speed away from the gate,” O’Neill said. “And he doesn’t like to lose.”
O’Neill enters the Preakness seeking to keep alive his hopes of winning the Triple Crown. A year ago, American Pharoah became the 12th Triple Crown winner and the first since Affirmed in 1978.
Exaggerator has the best odds behind Nyquist at 3-1. The horse, trained by Keith Desormeaux, drew the fifth post position.
“Being that Nyquist is speed oriented, he’ll probably get pressed from the outside,” Desormeaux said. “It may make him go a little faster. That could be tactically advantageous for us.”
Exaggerator has finished behind Nyquist on four different occasions, but Desormeaux hopes things will be different on Saturday.
“We respect what he’s done,” Desormeaux said, “but we’re hopeful of turning the tables.”
Stradavari, at 8-1, was the third choice, as selected by Pimlico handicapper Keith Feustle.
Trainer Todd Pletcher, asked his reaction to having Stradavari starting outside at 11, said, “I’m happy with it. The good thing is you can kind of dictate things instead of them being dictated to you.”
The race is scheduled for around 6:30 p.m. EDT on Saturday. The field includes Lani, a Japanese-bred horse who finished ninth in the Derby, and eight new shooters.
Lani will start from the No. 6 post, which has produced 16 Preakness winners — most of any starting spot.
“He wanted the outside draw and No. 6 is technically outside, so he is pretty much satisfied,” said Soshi Inoue, spokesman for trainer Mikio Matsunaga.
From the pole, with the odds in parenthesis: Cherry Wine (20-1), Uncle Lino (20-1), Nyquist (3-5), Awesome Speed (30-1), Exaggerator (3-1), Lani (30-1), Collected (10-1), Laoban (30-1), Abiding Star (30-1), Fellowship (30-1), Stradavari (8-1).