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Classic Empire: Preakness Stakes Contenders

20 Mai 2017

The familiar cowboy hat was perched atop his head.

(AP Photo/Garry Jones). Always Dreaming trainer Todd Pletcher listens to questions following the post-position draw for Saturday's Preakness Stakes horse race, Wednesday, May 17, 2017, at Pimlico in Baltimore. I'd love to put bubble wrap around him. "Just by his physical makeup, I think that he's a horse that hopefully can continue to even get better than he already is". "I think he's better than he looked on paper".

Conquest Mo Money was not nominated to the Triple Crown. Second place: $300,000. Third place: $165,000. Only Bob Baffert has done that in the modern era.

Always Dreaming will attempt to be the fourth Kentucky Derby victor in the last six years to finish first in the Preakness.

There's not much speed in the Preakness, and one would expect Always Dreaming to be either first or second down the backstretch. "On paper, Always Dreaming, Classic Empire and Conquest Mo Money are the horses that have consistently shown the most speed".

Recommended exotics: Throw Always Pleasing in if you want on trifectas and superfectas, though the payoff will be low.

Notes: Exaggerator surged down the stretch to win the Preakness by 3 ½ lengths. His sire, Lookin at Lucky, won the 2010 Preakness but he is unlikely to get his first stakes win on Saturday. It wouldn't surprise me. Not with this field anyhow. Four in the 10-horse field are at least 20-1. The Kentucky Derby was just a deflating dose of bad racing luck. However, he probably spotted almost that much ground to the victor.

"He's proven he belongs", Blasi said. "Horses tire on the turn. Give him an A-plus for the changes he made and keeping Always Dreaming and his energy level under control so he could use it on Saturday instead of the days leading up to it".

"The horse is doing very well". Just look at the Breeders Cup [where he won the Juvenile]. When nobody's kicking mud in your face, you tend to run a bit better than when 19 other animals are throwing muck back at you.

If he runs a good race and holds off Classic Empire, then he will be two-thirds of the way home to the Triple Crown heading into the Belmont.

"He's got a lot in the tank", exercise rider Nick Bush said, per Culpepper. I would imagine that they are going to target us and the target is right next to you. We see him breaking to the lead at the start and going more or less rail-to-rail.

Classic Empire also was far back early in the Derby, but not by design.

The Arkansas Derby victor is early 3-1 second choice in Saturday's race at Pimlico after finishing a troubled fourth in the Kentucky Derby May 6 at Churchill Downs.

The fact he seized the lead relatively early before the final stretch run suggests he can do the same at the shorter Preakness (1 3/16 miles compared to 1 1/4 miles). Mine That Bird was the 50-1 upset victor of the 2009 Kentucky Derby.

"I thought he had a very strong, enthusiastic, contained gallop", Pletcher said.

"We anticipated that things would build up this week with other horses coming in, and more people coming in. I'd have to go with a horse that's been there done that".

If the colt is showing an eagerness to compete again, so is Pletcher. So how does he fill out the ticket - for entertainment purposes only.

"That would leap me up a giant step", Lanerie said. "And I also like Steve Asmussen's horses [Hence and Lookin at Lee]". Weather is looking cloudy and cool but dry for Saturday, following what is expected to be a sunny, hot Friday in Baltimore.

Classic Empire is running for redemption, but the field sets up for Always Dreaming, writes Mark Inabinett for

Classic Empire: Preakness Stakes Contenders