Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Always Dreaming will try to turn a classic double in Saturday’s Preakness (G1) at Pimlico, and keep the Triple Crown hopes burning going into the June 10 Belmont S. (G1).
Since arriving in Baltimore May 9, Always Dreaming has continued to show a high energy level, implying he’ll bring his “A” game into the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown. Trainer Todd Pletcher early on decided to gallop him up to the Preakness, rather than call for a timed work. The idea is to keep him fresh on the quick two-week turnaround from the Derby.
As of this writing – Monday of Preakness Week – four of his Derby rivals are expected to challenge again. Runner-up Lookin at Lee, fourth-placer Classic Empire, seventh Gunnevera, and 11th Hence hope for better luck in the Preakness.
Classic Empire, last year’s champion two-year-old male, had his Derby dreams quickly devolve into a nightmare when he was sideswiped coming out of the gate. In the circumstances, he did well to recover and rally for fourth.
Trainer Mark Casse is looking forward to a rematch, and a fairer shot at Always Dreaming, this time around.
“We still think he’s the best horse and we want to prove it,” Casse said of Classic Empire.
Classic Empire’s van pulled into Pimlico in the pre-dawn hours Monday. Gunnevera had already made the same trip from Churchill on Saturday, a week ahead of the Preakness.
Lookin at Lee and Hence, both trained by Steve Asmussen, breezed a half-mile at Churchill Downs Monday before their Tuesday flight to Baltimore. Taking it very easy between the two jewels of the Triple Crown, Lookin at Lee clocked :51.20 and Hence went in :51.60.
As usual, the Preakness is also luring several newcomers who didn’t compete in the Derby.
Two had scored sufficient points to make the Derby field – Conquest Mo Money and Cloud Computing – but their respective connections believed they’d benefit by waiting for the Preakness instead.
Conquest Mo Money was runner-up to Classic Empire in the Arkansas Derby (G1) and to Hence in the Sunland Derby (G3). Not Triple Crown nominated, he’s being supplemented for $150,000. The son of Uncle Mo vanned from Prairie Meadows on Sunday.
Cloud Computing finished second in the Gotham (G3) and third in the Wood Memorial (G2). The Chad Brown trainee will embark by van from Belmont on Tuesday.
The other “new shooters” are Illinois Derby (G3) winner Multiplier and Lexington (G3) scorer Senior Investment, both due to ship from Keeneland; the Doug O’Neill-trained Term of Art, most recently seventh in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) and set to travel Tuesday; and quite possibly an Irish raider in the form of Aidan O’Brien’s Lancaster Bomber, runner-up in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) and fourth in both the UAE Derby (G2) and Newmarket’s 2000 Guineas (G1) so far this season.
Royal Mo, the first also-eligible for the Derby who did not draw into the field, was also Preakness-bound. Unfortunately, he sustained a career-ending injury in a Sunday workout, leaving a feeling of what-might-have-been for a promising colt still on the upswing.
Always Dreaming, who justified 9-2 favoritism in the Kentucky Derby, figures to be the strong choice in the Preakness betting.
The final field will be drawn on Wednesday. In the meantime, you can take a look at the free Brisnet past performances for the likely Preakness contenders and keep up with all of the Preakness news at Brisnet.com.
Always Dreaming photos courtesy Churchill Downs/Coady Photography