Today, a field of ten 3-year-olds, including the reigning Kentucky Derby (GI) winner, will race 1 3/16 miles in the 142nd running of the Preakness Stakes (GI), well known as the second jewel to the coveted Triple Crown. Always Dreaming shipped to Maryland to prepare for Pimlico’s most historic and prestigious race two days after capturing the Run for the Roses and, as is tradition, bedded down in stall 40 of the track’s expansive stakes barn on the Baltimore track’s backstretch.
The Preakness itself was actually run for the first time in 1873, two years before the Kentucky Derby, and skipped three years from 1891 to 1893, which is why there is officially one more running of the first jewel of the Triple Crown. The Preakness was named by then Maryland governor, who was honoring a famous racehorse, and since the first running, an army of some of the greatest names in the history of the game have had their owners’ silks painted on the weathervane above the track.
Obviously all of the 12 Triple Crown winners made a stop in Maryland, as well as legendary runners like Native Dancer, Nashua, Bold Ruler, Tim Tam, Northern Dancer, Damascus, Forward Pass, Canonero II, Spectacular Bid, Gate Dancer, Alysheba, Risen Star, Sunday Silence, Summer Squall, Hansel, Tabasco Cat, Silver Charm, Real Quite, Charismatic, Point Given, War Emblem, Funny Cide, Smarty Jones, Curlin, Lookin at Lucky, California Chrome and perhaps the most recognizable name in recent years, the filly Rachel Alexandra.
Rain hit the area just in time for Friday’s Black-Eyed Susans, which was sufficient enough to turn the track sloppy. The scattered thunderstorms are expected to continue through Friday night and give way to cooler, dryer conditions with an afternoon high of 70. The track should be dry by post time for the Preakness, which has been set for 6:48 p.m. ET.
Always Dreaming will attempt to become the ninth dual classic winner in the past 20 years and if he runs a race anything like his Derby, he’s a good bet to accomplish the feat. The son of Bodemeister was a bit of a late developer this year, having started twice as a juvenile without producing a win before getting a new trainer and the much-needed time to develop.
He hasn’t made a mistake in all of 2017, stringing together four wins and annexing the most famous race in the world two weeks ago. He’s been a bit of hot head in the mornings, requiring a successful change in exercise riders and equipment in the mornings before the Derby, but trainer Todd Pletcher said he’s shown to be more relaxed at Pimlico, but still full of energy and looking at least as good as he did heading into the Run for the Roses, having not lost a pound.
His speed, pace and class figures stand out, save one, and he’s got an early running style that will be great over the Pimlico main track in a race nearly devoid of speed and the only other quick rival drawing the far outside. No doubt Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez cruises to the front and parks, pacing his mount through the early stages and leaving enough in the tank for the Pimlico stretch drive. He won’t offer any value, but he’s peaked at the right time to be the main force to be reckoned with in here.
Classic Empire returns off a brutal mugging out of the gate and an extremely wide trip at Churchill Downs, where he still finished a very respectable fourth. Last year’s Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) winner had some physical setbacks this year, including an abscessed foot and sore back, and was a bit of a pisser when he refused to work a couple of times, then came back at about 80 percent to win the Arkasas Derby (GI) like the good horse we remember him to be.
He’s not done much but gallop since the Derby and the eye injury he suffered two weeks ago has healed enough for trainer Mark Casse to roll the dice here, hoping for a better trip. Post position five is more than acceptable for jockey Julien Leparoux to get good position either stalking the early pace or dropping a couple lengths further back if the pace ends up being quicker than expected, waiting for the speed to start backing up when they make their move. If the John Oxley-owned son of Pioneerof the Nile runs to the form he showed as a 2-year-old, he’s a threat to upset the Derby winner here.
Cloud Computing was a late developer who broke his maiden at first asking at Aqueduct in February before picking up a second and third in the Gotham Stakes (GIII) and Wood Memorial Stakes (GII), respectively, in his last two, safely earning enough points to make the Derby. However, in a rare move with Derby fever plaguing many, trainer Chad Brown decided that rushing the son of Maclean’s Music wasn’t in his best interests and they’d instead wait for the Preakness.
Now rested and training exceptionally well at Belmont, including a nice bullet five-eighths in 1:00 1/5 on May 7, he faces a shorter field and fits as one with a legit shot to upset in his grade 1 debut. Eclipse winner Javier Castellano is aboard after committing to this mount before the Derby, where he rode Gunnevera. Post two suits the typically mid-pack runner as well.
Deep closer Lookin at Lee is just about as consistent as they come, but he’s not fond of reaching the wire in front, which makes it hard to have a lot of faith in him for a Preakness upset. He deserves to be included in all exotics, however, and his best will earn the Steve Asmussen-trained Derby runner-up another board-hitting performance. Regular rider Corey Lanier is back aboard and the pair will break from post nine.
Fountain of Youth Stakes (GII) winner Gunnevera didn’t run a bad race in the Derby, finishing seventh and 13 lengths behind the winner after racing near the back of the pack early. He’s loaded with talent, but he’s danced a lot of dances since breaking his maiden at Saratoga last summer. He gets the benefit of big-money rider Mike Smith and a good post (six) for his later-running trip. He just needs the top choices to regress a bit to expect a victory.
Sunland Derby (GIII) winner Hence was 11th in the Derby after enduring a bit of trouble. The Derby winner’s stablemate is a talented runner who should be used in any exotics based on his win at Sunland Park alone. Florent Geroux is back aboard for Steve Asmussen.
Sunland Derby runner-up Conquest Mo Money was a nice second to Classic Empire in the Arkansas Derby and because of the prohibitive nature of supplementing to the Kentucky Derby, sat that out in favor of the Preakness. He’s the other runner with a bit of speed who won’t let the Derby winner cruise out on the front end, but he also will need to duplicate his performance at Oaklawn to earn a bigger share of the purse.
Multiplier won the Illinois Derby (GIII) and was immediately sold, but left in the care of capable trainer Brendan Walsh. He earned a huge speed figure in that race, which was so much better than what he earned in his previous three races one has to wonder if a bounce against tougher competition is in order. Consider with caution.
Senior Investment won the Lexington Stakes (GII) at Keeneland last out after a somewhat disappointing effort in the Louisiana Derby. His figures indicate he’s a touch below the best here and will need his best to be a factor.
Term of Art hasn’t won in a long time facing much softer. Seems a stretch to think he has a big shot to earn a larger portion of the purse, especially considering his overall numbers in speed, pace and class.