Always Dreaming, Classic Empire set as neighbors in Preakness

Preakness Stakes contender Gunnevera is seen past a starting gate as he walks to the track for a workout at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore Wednesday
Always Dreaming is 4-5 early favorite for Preakness
Author

19 May, 2017

The colt has been dominant, including his semi-romp in the May 6 Kentucky Derby, winning by a combined 23 lengths.

The reason I got off Street Sense for Curlin in 2007 was because Street Sense had a home track advantage in Kentucky and Pimilico was neutral ground.

"I think I have a greater respect for Always Dreaming now", Casse admitted.

It's a typical status of such major Churchill Downs victors given the Preakness (1 3/16 miles) is a little shorter than the Derby (1 1/4 miles) and there is much less competitive traffic with the field halved from 20 to 10. He tried to weave his way through, but couldn't catch Lookin At Lee or Always Dreaming. Exaggerator won from No. 5 in '16, while Oxbow was the most recent victor from No. 6 in '13.

His second-place finish seemingly impressed no one.

Never one to ignore lessons learned, Pletcher is using his experience with Super Saver to guide Always Dreaming's preparation. But most Triple Crown seasons, Pletcher skipped the middle jewel in favor of waiting for the Belmont at his NY home base. I had zero questions about Chrome or Pharoah by this stage. However, when Exaggerator won in 2016 it had been 23 years since the second-place Derby finisher had taken the Preakness.

And Pletcher said his work was that of a $1.80 shot, with CrownBet, heading into the second leg of the Triple Crown. The Derby victor is an even stronger choice in the Preakness when he was the favorite in the Derby.

The Kentucky Derby also reveals a host of horses that found out they just aren't good enough. His 2010 Derby victor Super Saver finished eighth in the Preakness as the 9-5 favorite.

Not that he has soured on his own star, who has three Grade I victories (Keeneland's Breeders' Futurity, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and the Arkansas Derby) to his credit.

Classic Empire ran well to be fourth, beaten 8¾ lengths, after injuries kept him from getting in more than two Derby preps.

"The horse is doing unbelievably well in the two-week turnaround", Pletcher said, via Preakness.com. "And he probably helped me as much as I helped him".

"It's fine", Pletcher said of the draw. When I look at him in his stall, he remains full of energy, tearing at the feed tub.

The Preakness' position two weeks after the Derby is too soon for Pletcher. But it's entirely possible that Always Dreaming takes up the early running, and his rivals will have to try to overtake him.

Kentucky Derby victor Always Dreaming, ridden by exercise rider Nick Bush, walks past the starting gates after a workout at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Thursday, May 18, 2017. "I would imagine that Classic Empire is going to keep an eye on where we are". First, it has been well documented that Classic Empire was obliterated in the cavalry charge out of the gate at Churchill Downs. “If we cant win, I want Always Dreaming to win because this sport is so important to me.

Watch NBC's overhead far turn shot and the dirt nearest the rail just looks different, more compacted. Gunnevera ran poorly in the Derby but has the talent to get a piece of the purse at potentially long odds on Saturday.

Lookin at Lee, trained by Steve Asmussen, and Gunnevera and Hence, Derby seventh and 11th respectively, follow in the odds for the 10-horse field. But rider Florent Geroux inexplicably took him to the middle of the track.

Conquest Mo Money was under consideration for the Kentucky Derby but ultimately passed, as he would have been required to submit a $200,000 supplemental fee after not being nominated for the Triple Crown earlier in the year.

Always Dreaming is the early 4-5 favorite for the race Saturday at Pimlico, where hell break from the No. 4 post. Where Pletcher's previous Derby winner's career peaked on the first Saturday in May, his victor this year seems to be getting better with every start and has potential to develop into an elite 3-year-old. "But I do feel very, very good about the way he's coming into it".


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