Todd Pletcher takes sure and steady approach to Preakness

Doug Mendoza
May 19, 2017

Barring any more bad luck with traffic, the take here is Classic Empire will be much closer to the lead this time to try and make the most of his mulligan.

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. "And we sure didn't change our minds because of the results of the Derby".

"In the Preakness, I do feel like we're going to need some help, a little bit more luck with Always Dreaming, because he looked mighty tough and we're going a little shorter this time".

Pletcher has decided Always Dreaming won't have a timed workout - known as a breeze - before the Preakness.

The victor of the Preakness Stakes gets 60 percent of the $1.5 million purse, - $900,000 - down to 3 percent for fifth.

She was in the owner's box at Churchill Downs when the horse won the Derby. He is not just cheap speed to push Always Dreaming. 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. "He's always at the front of the stall, has his head out and his ears up and taking in the scenery".

Always Dreaming figures to be the clear favorite.

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

Most of the time the victor of the Kentucky Derby goes into the Preakness Stakes as the betting favorite and most of the time I agree with that assessment and sink or swim on a bed of chalk.

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The Preakness Stakes is two years older than the Kentucky Derby, running for the first time in 1873. But most Triple Crown seasons, Pletcher skipped the middle jewel in favor of waiting for the Belmont at his NY home base. The famed trainer has failed to win the Preakness in eight attempts, with his best finish coming in 2000 when Impeachment finished third.

Classic Empire likely will be the second choice behind Always Dreaming, owing to his overall form - including being the 2-year-old male champion of last year - combined with a brutal trip in the Derby. Super Saver raced forwardly for a mile, but stopped at the top of the stretch and finished eighth.

He won the Preakness by a neck over My Dad George, with Dust Commander finishing ninth. Considering that he was compromised in the Wood Memorial by a slow start and a speed-favoring track, I thought his third-place effort was much better than it looked, and he's been catching eyes while training for the Preakness.

The field, from the pole, with jockeys: Multiplier (Joel Rosario), Cloud Computing (Javier Castellano), Hence (Florent Geroux), Always Dreaming (Velazquez), Classic Empire (Julien Leparoux), Gunnevera (Mike Smith), Term of Art (Jose Ortiz), Senior Investment (Channing Hill), Lookin At Lee (Corey Lanerie), Conquest Mo Money (Jorge Carreno). His off-the-pace, late running style has not proven to be a style that wins the second leg of the Triple Crown.

The storied Kentucky stable also has Term of Art, trained by 2012 Preakness victor Doug O'Neill.

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Always Dreaming seeks to become the 36th horse to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

"I do love history, and this is a lovely place", said Mark Casse, trainer of Preakness entrant Classic Empire. Hollendorfer was proud of his horse's Derby performance at 40-1 odds. You're coming back in 14 days from the Kentucky Derby, which can be a very demanding race ... the horse is fit and ready. "He came out good, he's back here at Santa Anita and we're looking to run him maybe in the Affirmed (Stakes on June 24)".

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