Will Exaggerator join this Elite Group of Preakness & Belmont Winners?

June 05, 2016 12:31pm

Off a strong second in the Kentucky Derby, and a rather dominant score in the Preakness, Exaggerator has proven to be one of the best of his foal crop. The classic winning son of Curlin next heads to Belmont Park as the now horse, and a clear favorite in the Belmont Stakes. If he can continue his excellent recent form, by winning at twelve furlongs on June 11, he will become only the fourteenth horse in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries to win the last two legs of the Triple Crown without having won the Derby. Not only is the list a small one, but it is elite. Will Exaggerator, now a four-time graded stakes winner, add his name to this exclusive club?

1920 - Man O' War – Perhaps the greatest race horse in the history of American racing, the son of Fair Play won 20-of-21 starts, with only a narrow and unlucky loss in the Sanford, as a two-year-old, standing in the way of a perfect career. Keep in mind, in his era, the Triple Crown was not known as such. Although a dominant force at three, the original Big Red did not begin his sophomore season until May 18, cruising to victory over the only horse that ever beat him, Upset, in the Preakness Stakes at odds of 4-5. Two races later he rolled home a 20-length winner in the Belmont Stakes, on his way to a perfect 11-for-11 three-year-old season.

1922 - Pillory – Speaking of horses who never had a shot at the Triple Crown ... In his year, the Preakness and Derby were run on the same day. Pillory stayed closer to home for the Preakness, and won by a head. He added a Belmont Stakes win a few weeks later, but still remains the most obscure horse on this list. Whiskaway beat out both Pillory, and the Derby winner, Morvich, for championship honors.

1940 - Bimelech – May not be a name on the tip of the tongue for most racing fans, but perhaps he should. The undefeated juvenile champion of 1939 came back to be a very good three-year-old, as well. He was upset at odds of 2-5 in the Kentucky Derby, but returned just one week later to easily reverse that second-place decision over the Derby winner in the Preakness. Two starts later, he won a hard-fought Belmont, on his way to earning his second straight championship.

1949 - Capot – When the 13-1 shot opened up a clear lead at the head of the stretch, it looked like he was on his way to becoming a Kentucky Derby winner, but Ponder had other ideas. Although he was easily swept past in the Kentucky Derby, Capot parlayed that solid second place finish into Preakness victory one week later. The son of Menow added a Belmont Stakes win to his resume two weeks later, in a championship season which included him hitting the wire in front in 7-of-16 races. Interestingly, he was not favored in any one of the three legs of the Triple Crown.

1953 - Native Dancer – If Man O’ War was the best of the Preakness-Belmont Stakes winners, this one was not far behind. Like Big Red, he came agonizingly close to a perfect career. The three-time champion came to the Kentucky Derby unbeaten, but left Louisville an all too narrow loser on the first Saturday in May. Dark Star’s big upset in the run for the roses turned out to be the Grey Ghost’s only career loss out of 22 starts. Doing just enough to earn the win, Native Dancer won both the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes of 1953 by a neck margin on his way to a Hall of Fame career.

1955 - Nashua – As excellent as Nashua was, there would be no catching another excellent colt in the 1955 edition of the Kentucky Derby. The two-year-old champion of 1954 gave spirited chase, but could never get to Swaps at Churchill Downs. Without him, though, the son of Nasrullah proved unstoppable in the last two legs of the Triple Crown. He won the Preakness by a length, before romping home in the Belmont by nine-lengths under Eddie Arcaro. A champion at both two and three, Nashua got his revenge on his great California rival in a Chicago match race later that year, as just one of his 22 career victories.

1967 - Damascus – Like Nashua had Swaps, for Damascus, it was Dr. Fager. After a great battle in the Gotham, one of racing’s great rivalries never was played out on the Triple Crown stage, though, as the Good Doctor was steered clear of the extended distance of the Derby, Preakness, and Belmont. Meanwhile, Damascus was not a happy camper on a hot and humid day in Louisville. He could only manage a third in the Derby, but proved much the best in both the Preakness and the Belmont. A future Hall of Famer, Damascus famously won the Travers that year by 22 lengths.

1974 - Little Current – Too late to the party was the stretch running son of Sea-Bird in the 100th edition of the Kentucky Derby. He made up serious ground, but could get no closer than fifth at the finish after breaking last in the 23-horse field. With less traffic to navigate in Baltimore and New York, Little Current put things all together in the final two legs of the Triple Crown. He blew by the field to win going away by seven lengths in both races, and despite losing his final three races, the huge performances at Pimlico and Belmont were enough to secure an Eclipse Award.

1988 - Risen Star – Although he raced 11 times, there is no telling how good Risen Star may have been if not retired early due to injury. An eight-time winner, and never once out of the money, he also did not have the smoothest of trips at Churchill Downs. His very wide journey was finished off with a big rally, but one that could only get him up for third. He had no such trouble in the Preakness and Belmont. A convincing winner of the Middle Jewel, it was in the Belmont where he really demonstrated his true potential. The 14 ¾-length demolition of the field, in fast time, was one of the most impressive outside of his sire, Secretariat.

1991 - Hansel – Sent off as the Kentucky Derby favorite after big wins in the Jim Beam and Lexington, Hansel did little running on the first Saturday in May. His puzzling tenth-place finish in the Derby was erased soon after by a romping victory in the Preakness. The Lazy Lane runner won by seven lengths in excellent time at Pimlico, but had to call on all of his heart and courage to hold off the Derby winner, Strike the Gold, in a thrilling finish to the 1991 Belmont Stakes. Injury would only allow for two more races, but the gutty son of Woodman had done plenty to secure an Eclipse Award.

1994 - Tabasco Cat – Best known as the horse who severely injured Jeff Lukas, Tabasco Cat was not as polished a runner as the majority of horses on this list, but what he lacked in talent, he made up for in toughness. After an uninspiring sixth place finish in Louisville, the D. Wayne Lukas runner turned the tables by stalking and going by the Derby winner, Go for Gin, in each of the next two. Like Capot 45 years before him, he became a Preakness and Belmont winner while not being favored in any of the three Triple Crown races.

2001 - Point Given – What a year Point Given had in 2001. After missing the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile by one jump the previous fall, the powerful son of Thunder Gulch won six of his seven races in high style as a three-year-old. Unfortunately for him, the Bob Baffert trainee’s one poor race came in the Kentucky Derby. After chasing a hot pace, he faded to fifth in at Churchill Downs. In the Preakness, and especially the Belmont, he displayed his superiority over his competition, though. A clear win in the Preakness was followed by a 12-plus length runaway in New York. He added the Haskell and Travers for good measure, before an early retirement.

2005 - Afleet Alex – Another horse who completely dominated his competition in both the Preakness and the Belmont, Afleet Alex was only turned away from a Triple Crown by a single length in the Derby. Also moving early into a hot pace, the talented son of Northern Afleet came up just that much short when third at Churchill Downs. A seven length romp in the Belmont concluded his Triple Crown, and his championship season for that matter, but it is his Preakness that will never be forgotten. In one of the most athletic moves ever seen on the racetrack, Afleet Alex miraculously avoided disaster coming out of the Pimlico far turn, somehow staying on his feet after being sideswiped by Scrappy T, and recovered to win the Middle Jewel by nearly five lengths.


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Meet Brian Zipse

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, American Pharoah and Justify. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. His new racing partnership venture, Derby Day Racing, invites more fans to experience the thrill of racehorse ownership.

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, created the popular racing show, HorseCenter and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as hosting HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.

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