- Associated Press
Wednesday, June 8, 2016

NEW YORK — Preakness Stakes winner Exaggerator is the 9-5 morning-line favorite in a field of 13 entered for Saturday’s $1.5 million Belmont Stakes, the final leg of the Triple Crown.

The 3-year-old colt trained by Keith Desormeaux and ridden by his brother, Hall of Famer Kent Desormeaux, drew the No. 11 post position on Wednesday.

Stradivari, who ran fourth in the Preakness Stakes, is the surprising second choice at 5-1. Destin, sixth in the Kentucky Derby, is the third choice at 6-1. Both are trained by Todd Pletcher, a two-time Belmont Stakes winner. Preakness Stakes runner-up Cherry Wine is 8-1.

Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist, who finished third in the Preakness Stakes, isn’t running in the Belmont Stakes. He was sidelined briefly by a fever after the Preakness Stakes and is back in California.

A year ago, American Pharoah became the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years, sweeping the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.

Being outside should not be an obstacle for Exaggerator, one of several 3-year-olds in the field who like to run well off the lead.

“I can’t see any horse that would cross over on him,” Kent Desormeaux said. “I’d like to establish position preferably without him getting a grain of sand in his face.”

The 46-year-old rider returned to the track on Tuesday after a brief stay in a drug and alcohol rehab center in Utah. A one-time regular rider at Belmont Stakes Park, he feels he might have an edge over a track that measures 1 1/2 miles.

“I do, actually,” Desormeaux said of having a home-track advantage, just like he felt he did at Pimlico, where he also used to ride on a regular basis. “I think it holds true to the Preakness, going back to that, and understanding the course.”

Cherry Wine, who nipped Nyquist for second in the Preakness Stakes, has improved his finish in each of his last three starts.

“I hope we’re sitting on a big race,” trainer Dale Romans said. “His Belmont pedigree says he’s set to go a mile-and-a-half as well as anyone else.”

Romans also sends out 20-1 long shot Brody’s Cause, the Blue Grass winner who ran seventh in the Kentucky Derby. Also with two horses in the race are Steve Asmussen with 10-1 Creator and Gettysburg, the 30-1 expected pace-setter, and Dallas Stewart with 30-1 long shots Forever d’Oro and Seeking the Soul.

Desormeaux isn’t about to predict where Exaggerator will be during the race, but said “I’m going to let Exaggerator get comfortable, wherever that is it’s going to be.

“If I could have a dream run, he would be forwardly placed, and I would be able to dreamingly decide when to pull the trigger.”

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