(Reuters) - The top two finishers at the Kentucky Derby are on track for a rematch at the Preakness Stakes after pulling up well on Sunday morning, according to connections of both horses.
Winner Nyquist could not be doing better, his trainer Doug O'Neill said, while second-placed Exaggerator was also in fine fettle, groom Vic Bargac reported.
"He’s doing great," O’Neill said of Nyquist after checking up on the unbeaten colt before dawn. "He had his head out over the webbing, looking bright eyed."
Bargac, meanwhile, said of Exaggerator: "He’s good. He ate it all last night and he liked his breakfast today, too. He’s doing very well."
O'Neill said that Nyquist, now 8-0 in his career, would head to Maryland on Monday for the next step in the Triple Crown, the May 21 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico in Baltimore.
Exaggerator's trainer Keith Desormeaux says he was looking forward to having another crack at Nyquist at the Preakness.
Nyquist recorded a relatively comfortable victory by 1-1/4 lengths at Churchill Downs, but Exaggerator closed strongly near the end.
And who knows how close it might have been had Exaggerator, according to his jockey, not been checked rounding the final turn.
“My horse slammed on the brakes ... ducked back to the inside and then took off," said jockey Kent Desormeaux.
Nyquist started the Derby as a 2-1 favorite, with Exaggerator second most popular with the punters.
The Preakness is the second leg of the U.S. Triple Crown for 3-year-olds, with the 1-1/2 mile Belmont Stakes closing the grueling series on June 11.
There have been 12 Triple Crown winners, most recently last year by American Pharaoh, who ended a Triple Crown drought stretching back to 1978.
The 1-1/4 mile Kentucky Derby (2000 meters) was the longest race of Nyquist's career, but he will come back in distance slightly for the Preakness, which is run over 1-3/16.
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Larry Fine