Classic Empire was last year's juvenile champion. It took me that long to get to the Derby. Always Dreaming will be just his second Preakness starter in seven years. "But he's also the greatest trainer in America at keeping his horses in the barn". He did have a nice rebounding effort after the disappointing seventh in the Southwest Stakes, coming back to win the Sunland Derby a little over a month later.
That's what happened at Churchill Downs, when Lukas had no entrant but was overcome with joy while watching Always Dreaming approach the finish line. However, he probably spotted almost that much ground to the victor.
His second-place finish seemingly impressed no one.
PB: Let's say Always Dreaming and Classic Empire both get good trips.
Classic Empire looms a major threat to wipe out any hope for a Triple Crown try in NY on June 11th. I had zero questions about Chrome or Pharoah by this stage. I think we saw the same thing with Mine That Bird [in 2009], obviously, he was 50-1.
The second leg of thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown is on tap for Saturday evening, and all eyes will be on the freshly minted Kentucky Derby victor. "We don't quite see it the same way; if we have a horse that fits a race and is doing well, we want to run".
Those are the five with Oaklawn connections who are taking a shot at likely being the last Preakness victor at Pimlico. Pletcher has watched the replay of horses getting bounced outside the Derby starting gate. Morning-line favorite Classic Empire was fourth and Practical Joke fifth.
"I think he's a very good horse", Pletcher said of Lookin At Lee.
And Pletcher, absolutely one of the smartest people in the sport, learned from his Super Saver experience. He didn't with Always Dreaming.
"We like what we're seeing so far", Pletcher said. His energy level was immediately good and has remained so throughout. I guess they felt the three weeks in between the Arkansas Derby and the Kentucky Derby was too small of a window. It is a different deal with the Preakness. The importance to me is that Classic Empire is entering the 3rd race of his current form cycle and should be at or near peak condition. So don't even get him started on talk of winning the Triple Crown.
Classic Empire, like Gunnevera, was forced to race extremely wide in the stretch but still was fourth. Given the lack of speed, they should be no worse than third heading into the first turn. Always Dreaming has totaled $2,284,700 in earnings, while Classic Empire is the second-leading money earner at $2.2 million in his career.
Classic Empire finished 4th in the Kentucky Derby, well beaten by Always Dreaming, but there are several reasons that I will select him to win. I don't envision Always Dreaming conceding the early lead however I believe Conquest Mo Money has the best early speed of the field.
Although many Derby contenders may grumble about the rough trip they got, there is nothing pointing to Always Dreaming taking a step back today. But rider Florent Geroux inexplicably took him to the middle of the track.
The Preakness totals $2.65 million in purse money, with $1.5 million going to the victor. He then shipped to Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, where he won an optional claiming race by 4 lengths and made a huge jump to win the Florida Derby by 5 lengths.
When Doug O'Neill arrived with I'll Have Another in 2011, he couldn't get over the hospitality at Pimlico, and of that of the entire city.
Only one California horse - Term of Art - opted to face Always Dreaming in this second jewel of the Triple Crown.
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