March 24, 2018

Always Dreaming heavily favored in early Preakness wagering

20 May 2017, 03:23 | Pamela Mathis

Always Dreaming heavily favored in early Preakness wagering

Always Dreaming heavily favored in early Preakness wagering

In the Preakness, he had to contend with five other horses with front-running speed; forced to go faster early, he faded to third as mud-loving Exaggerator rallied from eighth to win. A horse may not be at his best only two weeks after giving a top effort. As WUKY's Samantha Lederman reports, this Kentucky Derby victor will be carrying the hopes of breeders Gerry Dilger and Mike Ryan, as well as a large and tight-knit Irish community here in Lexington along with him.

Classic Empire and Conquest Mo Money meet again in the Preakness, with both aiming to knock off Kentucky Derby victor Always Dreaming. The dominoes fell in line with McCraken creaming Classic Empire, putting him at a disadvantage early in the race.

"It's not a two-horse race", Classic Empire trainer Mark Casse said. "They could go at it right from the start".

Tactics may favor one horse in the first leg of the Triple Crown and another horse in the second.

The race for three-year-old thoroughbreds, also held over dirt, is shorter than the Derby, at nine-and-a-half furlongs or 1 3/16 miles.

Thirteen winners have started from the No. 4 post, most recently Curlin in 2007.

"It's fine", said Todd Pletcher, noting that Always Dreaming had the No. 4 post in the Florida Derby and No. 5 in the Kentucky Derby, two of his four victories this year. He's generally a very good horse away from the gate.

Post positions were drawn Wednesday on a steamy, unseasonable 92-degree day.

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If you watched him standing calmly in Pimlico's stakes barn on a sultry Thursday afternoon, you wouldn't have guessed that Always Dreaming had been full of energy that morning. Both are owned by Zayat Stables, which two years ago won the Preakness with Triple Crown victor American Pharoah. Classic Empire, having been throttled out of the gate and bumped at every turn, was coated and tired and trudged to a fourth-place finish.

Take previous year: In the Derby, Nyquist faced only one other solid front-runner, ran close to the early lead on a comfortable pace, took the lead on the turn for home and went on to win.

Pletcher sent Always Dreaming to Pimlico three days after the Derby, wanting to give the colt known for some aggressive behavior in the mornings a chance to get used to his new surroundings well before race day. "I was just hoping to accumulate enough horses to get going and establish a reputation".

Casse likes the neighboring posts.

“He never was a real charismatic, amusing person, ” mentor and Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said, “but he always handled himself well.”. "If we can't win, I want Always Dreaming to win because this sport is so important to me".

Always Dreaming and Classic Empire are the only two horses with single-digit odds in the field.

The other eight horses were in double digits, with Gunnevera the third choice at 14-1. He will break from the No. 2 hole.

A horse that could be the fly in the ointment is Conquest Mo Money (15-1), an Uncle Mo colt who skipped the Derby to point for the Preakness. He's one of the biggest long shots in the field, along with Term of Art (No. 7 post) and Senior Investment (No. 8 post), who are also 30/1, respectively. An elusive Triple Crown try awaits Always Dreaming should he double up at Pimlico. The storied Kentucky stable also has Term of Art, trained by 2012 Preakness victor Doug O'Neill.

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