Last Updated: 2017-06-08
Legendary trainer Todd Pletcher spent his career always dreaming of a Triple Crown winner. Well, now he’s got one race down and he’s got his sights set on this week’s Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course, which serves as the second leg of the Triple Crown. This will be the 142nd edition of the race in Baltimore, Maryland and features the top three-year-olds in racing. This time, unlike the Kentucky Derby, fillies are eligible to participate, but none of them have entered the field. The top ones will be participating in the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes on Friday night.
It’s always interesting to see the field for the Preakness because some the Kentucky Derby participants store up their resources for the Belmont Stakes next month at Belmont Park. Always Dreaming will have some stiff competition from Classic Empire, Lookin At Lee, and Gunnevera, who all ran at Churchill Downs. Classic Empire finished just off the board in fourth place, but helped out for those that bet the superfectas. Lookin At Lee was a surprise place finisher and Gunnevera finished seventh, as the top contender for Antonio Sano got caught up in the crowd.
The Desormeaux brothers, Kent and Keith, took down this race last year with Exaggerator. Exaggerator was among the favorites in the Kentucky Derby, which was won by Nyquist, so that killed any chance of getting a Triple Crown winner in back-to-back years.
With post positions drawn, here are the initial lines as of May 17:
||Term of Art
||Lookin At Lee
||Conquest Mo Money
Always Dreaming is the clear favorite at 4/5 coming off of his win in the Kentucky Derby. That was trainer Todd Pletcher’s second career win in the Kentucky Derby. His first came with Super Saver in 2010. Super Saver went on to finish eighth in the Preakness with jockey Calvin Borel. The hope is that things will go better for Always Dreaming, who is a foal of Bodemeister, who was the runner-up in the 2012 Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. It was a very wet and muddy track that Always Dreaming won on in Louisville and really pulled away from the field late for his fourth career win in six races.
We’ll have to see how jockey John Velazquez plays it in the shortest of the three Triple Crown races. His win at the Kentucky Derby was his second, with the first coming on Animal Kingdom in 2011. Always Dreaming’s time was pretty comparable to those of other recent winners, in spite of the muddy conditions. Velazquez has two previous wins at the Belmont, but has not won this race in his career.
A very disappointing effort from Classic Empire in the muck and mud at Churchill Downs wouldn’t be erased with a big performance here, but it would certainly ease the pain for Mark Casse and Julien Leparoux. Classic Empire came into his three-year-old season with a lot of expectations after winning the Breeders’ Cup Futurity Stakes and also the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. There’s no denying the strength and bloodline of this colt, as the offspring of Pioneerofthe Nile, who was the sire of American Pharoah, which is probably the most dominant horse most of us have seen in our lifetimes.
It was a really tough trip for Classic Empire at Churchill, as conditions and the fight for the rail took a toll on him. He had some swelling that limited his vision coming out of the race. The price is still going to be low on a horse with such a spectacular pedigree and a talented rider, so you’ll have to weigh your own risk-reward here. A much smaller field takes some of the volatility out of the race and it’s hard to say that Classic Empire is an underdog to any horse based on his accolades and pedigree. His price is 3/1 and he’s the only other horse in single digits.
Was Lookin At Lee’s run a perfectly-timed anomaly or did people overlook the three-year-old colt? Corey Lanerie has orchestrated some great rides in his time and that was one of them for trainer Steve Asmussen. The question is whether or not he can have as strong of a trip without as many conditions going in his favor. Judging by the opening odds for this race at 10/1, the linemakers are pretty skeptical. It’s pretty easy to see why, considering he wasn’t considered much of a factor coming into the Derby and hadn’t had the most impressive Road to the Kentucky Derby performance.
We’re rooting for whichever horse(s) will make us money, but it’s hard not to be pulling for Gunnevera at 15/1 this weekend. The made-for-TV movie that has been the life of trainer Antonio Sano, who was kidnapped not once, but twice in his native Venezuela, deserves a storybook run in a Triple Crown race. Jockey Mike Smith didn’t get off to a good run as a 15/1 shot in the Derby. Neither did McCraken, Gormley, and Irish War Cry, who finished eighth, ninth, and 10th, respectively. None of them are racing this weekend, but Sano is taking another shot with Gunnevera, who won the Fountain of Youth Stakes during the Road to the Kentucky Derby and ran third in the Florida Derby.
It is a bit surprising to not see Victor Espinoza’s name on the list this week. He won the 2014 Preakness on California Chrome and the 2015 Preakness on American Pharoah. It’s also a bit surprising to not see a Bob Baffert horse in the race. Baffert has six career wins in this race and only trails R. Wyndham Walden from the 1800s in terms of the most career wins in this race. D. Wayne Lukas, who also has six career wins, is not represented either, though he is 81 years old now.
We’ve covered those that ran in the Derby, except for Hence, who doesn’t have much of a shot in this race. Who has a shot among those that did not run at Churchill? Those horses are Lancaster Bomber, Term of Art, Multiplier, Senior Investment, Cloud Computing, and Conquest Mo Money. The most popular pick will be Conquest Mo Money, one of the foals of Uncle Mo. Royal Mo was forced into retirement with an injury, so Conquest Mo Money heads into the field for Miguel Hernandez. CMM was second at the Arkansas Derby to Classic Empire, one spot ahead of Lookin At Lee. At the Sunland Derby, a Grade 3 race, he finished second to Hence. Consistency certainly appears to be a problem, but there’s a bloodline and some decent results here. This will be the fifth race of 2017 for Conquest Mo Money, though, which is reason for some pause. At 15/1, he’ll have to come from the outside.
The other newcomer with a decent chance is Cloud Computing at 12/1. The Chad C. Brown colt will be ridden by Javier Castellano, a past winner of the Preakness atop Bernardini in 2006. Cloud Computing ran a strong third at the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct last month and finished behind Irish War Cry and Battalion Runner. He was second in the Gotham Stakes behind J Boys Echo, who ran in the Derby. There will be some long odds on this horse, though.
It looks like this will be a chalk-heavy race, with a head-to-head duel between Always Dreaming and Classic Empire. However you set your bets up for this race, make sure you have those two hitting the board in some capacity, likely with Guennevera or Conquest Mo Money. Lookin At Lee didn’t grade as well as several horses in the race and seemed to be a little fortunate with the track conditions and the early start that interrupted some of the big contenders.
-END OF 2017 PREVIEW-
Post time for the 141st running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course will be on Saturday May 21 at 6:18 p.m. ET. All eyes will be on Nyquist, the horse that is hoping to follow in the hoof prints of American Pharoah, who captivated the nation with last year’s Triple Crown. For good measure, American Pharoah ran away from the field in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last year as well.
As things stand right now, the field for the Preakness only includes two other horses that ran in the Kentucky Derby. Post positions will be set on Wednesday night and odds will subsequently be posted at that time. At that time, we will update this article with the odds and the starting gate slots, but for now, here’s a look at the field, the jockeys, and the trainers.
For Doug O’Neill and Mario Gutierrez, the hope is that they can replicate the success that they had together in 2012. I’ll Have Another is O’Neill’s only win in this race. I’ll Have Another also won the 2012 Kentucky Derby. That horse was scratched prior to the Belmont the day before the race because of an injury. Unfortunately, that was the beginning of a long series of medical issues for I’ll Have Another. His racing career ended with the tendon injury and also an osteoarthritis diagnosis.
With Nyquist’s win, the most noticeable development is that Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher are bringing out some different weapons for this race. Baffert has six career wins in the Preakness, with his first in 1997 and his sixth last year with American Pharoah. Baffert also picked up winners with Lookin At Lucky, War Emblem, Point Given, Real Quiet, and Silver Charm. For as much success as Pletcher has had in his career, he has never had the winner of the Preakness.
Baffert ran with Mor Spirit in the Kentucky Derby and it did not go well. Mor Spirit finished 10th, well off the pace from its outside post in 17. Mor Spirit did close 12/1, but never really challenged during the race.
Collected was the winner of the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland about a month ago, so there was no chance of that horse running in the Kentucky Derby. This horse has been set up for success by running in some of the weaker Road to the Kentucky Derby races leading up to the Triple Crown contests. He also won the Sham at Santa Anita in January, but, again, that was a watered-down field.
Pletcher had two colts in the Derby. Destin was the better of the two, finishing in sixth place with odds of 15/1. Outwork was outworked by the field and finished 14th as a 15/1 shot. What’s interesting is that Javier Castellano rode Outwork, but will be atop Baffert’s horse Collected in the Preakness. John Velazquez, who rode on Destin, will also be Pletcher’s rider for the Preakness atop Stradivari. Early odds suggest that Stradivari could be one of the top challengers for Nyquist in this race.
Exaggerator is the colt looking for success with this short turnaround. Exaggerator finished second with the assistance of the Desormeaux brothers. Younger brother Kent is the jockey and older brother Keith is the trainer. Exaggerator comes from the bloodline of a former Preakness champion, Curlin, back in 2007. Curlin also won the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Exaggerator is a closer, so slow starts aren’t a lot to worry about with this colt, but the gap in the 20-horse field in the Kentucky Derby proved to be too much. With a lot less traffic in the Preakness, things could work out better. Rainy conditions are in the forecast for Friday night and Saturday, which could shift the odds in Exaggerator’s direction.
This doesn’t seem like a particularly strong field. Not many of these horses ran well or won events during the lead-up to the Kentucky Derby. Laoban and Cherry Wine both qualified for the Kentucky Derby, but neither ran in the race. Dale Romans opted for Brody’s Cause, the winner of the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland and the Breeders’ Futurity, but Churchill Downs didn’t bring the same success. Cherry Wine will represent Romans this weekend. He was third in the Blue Glass Stakes. Laoban was fourth in that race.
We’ve saved the best for last here in this Preakness preview. It seems like Nyquist should be the 36th horse to enter the Belmont Stakes with a chance at a Triple Crown. Twelve horses have finished off the trifecta. Twenty-three have not. Nyquist is undefeated in his professional racing career at 8-0. He’s the first undefeated horse to win the Kentucky Derby since Big Brown in 2008 and the last one to have won seven straight and then the Kentucky Derby since Majestic Prince in 1969. Big Brown and Majestic Prince also won the Preakness.
It truly seems like the Preakness will be a race for second, but we’ll see how things shake out.
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