Santa Anita Derby (G1) quotes courtesy of Santa Anita publicity
Winning trainer Keith Desormeaux on Exaggerator:
“Did I have any doubts as they were going up to the gate? No doubt, I had doubts! We had a good pace to run at in the San Felipe, but not a really fast pace. Today, we had a great pace scenario and he took full advantage. For me, this is like a dream. I mean, the (Kentucky) Derby is what everybody in this business dreams of. I think we’ll probably come in (to Churchill Downs) right on top of the race, maybe ship in on Monday or Tuesday.”
On the added distance of the Kentucky Derby:
“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.”
On the dynamic of having his Hall of Fame brother, Keith, as the jockey:
“I would say we 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.”
On whether Exaggerator can beat Nyquist:
“We haven’t been able to beat him, what five (actually three) times? I don’t know if we can or not.”
Winning rider, Hall of Famer Kent Desormeaux:
“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.”
Hall of Fame rider Gary Stevens on runner-up 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.”
Trainer Gary Sherlock on third-placer Uncle 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 made the lead and just got run down by two pretty good horses, that’s about it.
“My next move? I have no idea.”
Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith on fourth-placer 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 OK 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.”
Exaggerator photo courtesy of Benoit.