Undoubtedly, Exaggerator benefited from his favorite footing as he finally got the best of his nemesis in his fifth try. Nonetheless, his Kentucky Derby run signaled that he was improving and potentially dangerous over any going. Given the hot early pace, he might well have won regardless of the condition of the surface, and he has the pedigree to suggest that further improvement in the coming months is not only possible but probable. While a Triple Crown winner is now out of the question for 2016, one can hope that a great rivalry is in the works instead.
As for Nyquist, he was hardly disgraced. While he doesn't move up in the slop, he did not appear to be hampered by it either, and pace and a wide trip probably had more to do with his downfall than did the footing. Mario Gutierrez will probably get a good deal of criticism for his ride, but in truth, with speed horses to either side he had only two choices: to drop back, try to avoid being boxed in and count on Nyquist's versatility and tactical speed to deliver a knockout closing punch, or to do what he did and use his colt's natural speed to try to gain a favorable position before taking back. That he was unable to take back and give his colt a breather was not entirely his fault. It is extremely difficult to get a competitive young Thoroughbred to relax and rate when he is being pressured on both the inside and the outside, and that is what befell Nyquist in a scenario similar to the one Smarty Jones encountered in the 2004 Belmont Stakes (USA-G1).
Nyquist's loss of course takes much of the bloom off the upcoming Belmont Stakes, and it isn't known yet whether there will be a rubber match between the two Classic winners. Make no mistake about it, though: a good horse won the Preakness, and that is no exaggeration.