BALTIMORE — Exaggerator won the Preakness Stakes on a sloppy track Saturday, ending a Triple Crown bid by Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist, who lost for the first time in nine career starts.

Exaggerator, with Kent Desormeaux aboard, won by three-and-a-half lengths and his victory automatically means less interest in the Belmont Stakes, the third leg of horse-racing’s Triple Crown, where last year American Pharoah won the Triple Crown.

Nyquist started fast but faded in the stretch and finished third, behind Cherry Wine. Exaggerator became the first Derby runner-up to win the Preakness since 1993.

“I can’t even fathom this,” Desormeaux said. “I think Nyquist had company all the way around the course and they stayed real wide. For abbreviations I’ve had in previous starts, I had a dream trip today.”

Nyquist stayed mostly in the middle of the track, where it was dryer, but Desormeaux, who knows Pimlico very well, having spent years riding there, kept Exaggerator closer to the rail, and that, he said, was the difference.

“I was on the fence (rail) and they all stayed wide,” he said. “These turns you want to paint the fence. We did and they didn’t, and not for nothing, but knowledge is power.”

A disappointed Doug O’Neill, the trainer for Nyquist, said he didn’t think his horse could lose.

“I didn’t think we could get beat,” he said. “Nyquist is such an amazing horse; he still ran a great race, but we’re still trying to figure this out. I haven’t talked to (jockey) Mario (Gutierrez) yet, but Nyquist still ran a huge race.”

O’Neill said he might come back in the Belmont, but had to talk to the connections first before deciding.

Keith Desormeaux, Kent’s brother and the trainer for Exaggerator, said his horse had been training “phenomenally.

“My philosophy was to take it as easy as possible because you’re not going to gain any fitness in two weeks (since the Kentucky Derby), so I did what I could to get him freshened and happy. He’s always had a great ability to recover and he showed it today.”

Nyquist’s backers had hoped for consecutive Triple Crown winners, which is how it happened last time, with Seattle Slew winning it in 1977 and Affirmed in 1978.

The gray day got off to a bad start at Pimlico Race Course with the deaths of two horses in early races. Homeboykris won the day’s first race and died shortly after, apparently of a heart attack. Pramedya broke her leg during the fourth race and was euthanized on the track. Jockey Daniel Centeno, who was thrown, broke his collarbone.