Todd Pletcher talks Preakness scenarios
For the fifth year in a row, the Kentucky Derby favorite ended up in the winner’s circle on the first Saturday in May.
For the fifth year in a row — most likely — the Kentucky Derby winner will enter the Preakness starting gate as the favorite at shorter-than-even odds.
Despite those short odds, only two of the previous four Preakness favorites won the race. So will this year’s Derby winner, Always Dreaming, join Nyquist and Orb, who failed to find the Preakness finish line first, or American Pharoah and California Chrome, who both moved on to Belmont with their Triple Crown hopes intact?
Always Dreaming is the 4-5 morning-line favorite for Saturday’s race. He’ll meet a field that includes four other colts who ran in the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago and five “new shooters” who weren’t in the Derby field.
Recent history says the Preakness winner will come from one of the five Derby alums.
The new shooters often generate buzz, but in the past 33 runnings of the Preakness, only three have won: the filly Rachel Alexandra, who dominated the Kentucky Oaks by more than 20 lengths in 2009 before defeating long-shot Derby winner Mine That Bird; Bernardini, who won the 2006 Preakness, a race overshadowed by the injury suffered to Derby winner Barbaro; and Red Bullet, who defeated 1-5 favorite and Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000.
Every other Preakness since 1984 has been won by a horse that ran in the Derby, and that’s good news for Always Dreaming, Classic Empire, Gunnevera, Hence and Lookin At Lee.
Always Dreaming, who tracked in second place near Derby pacesetter State of Honor two weeks ago before making his big move, might have an even easier pace to navigate Saturday, with Arkansas Derby runner-up Conquest Mo Money seemingly the only other candidate to be at the front in the opening furlongs.
Two-year-old champ Classic Empire and the lightly raced Cloud Computing are likely to be just off the pace, and several in this field — including Kentucky Derby runner-up Lookin At Lee — like to come from well off the pace.
With all that in mind, here’s what you need to know about each of Saturday’s contenders:
1 — Multiplier (30-1)
Need to know: He broke his maiden in his third try — at Fair Grounds on March 18 — then came back to win the Illinois Derby in his next race, running a few lengths off the lead and turning on the gas to catch favorite Hedge Fund (who was third in the Sunland Derby) at the wire. Multiplier’s career-best Beyer speed figure, set in the Illinois Derby, was boosted from 88 to 94 on Thursday. Jockey Joel Rosario was second in this race in 2014 and 2015.
A good bet?: He would probably need to take a major step forward to be in the mix as a hit-the-board possibility against this field. Don’t see that happening.
2 — Cloud Computing (12-1)
Need to know: Cloud Computing didn’t make his first career start until Feb. 11 — a maiden victory — and finished second in the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes and third in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial after that. His 96 Beyer in the Gotham is the best among the new shooters. Javier Castellano, who rode Bernardini to a Preakness victory in 2006 and was on Gunnevera in the Derby, will be on Cloud Computing for the first time Saturday.
A good bet?: Maybe the most intriguing of the new shooters this year. Cloud Computing looks to have lots of talent and wouldn’t be a surprise on the back end of the trifecta, but he might not be ready to seriously challenge this bunch.
3 — Hence (20-1)
Need to know: The Sunland Derby winner raced from last place — not counting Thunder Snow — for much of the Kentucky Derby, and that meant he got mud thrown in his face for the better part of the race. He never factored into the Derby, although he did pick off some horses late to finish 11th. Trainer Steve Asmussen described the outing as more workout than race: “He didn’t run hard enough to be tired.”
A good bet?: Loved him at 15-1 on Derby Day and he didn’t do much running on that sloppy track. Worth trying again at similar odds at Pimlico, and he could be sitting on a big race if he gets a good trip.
4 — Always Dreaming (4-5)
Need to know: He was never really tested at Churchill, taking full control of the race early in the stretch before running on to a 2¾-length victory. Always Dreaming is now 4-for-4 in 2017, with a dominating victory in the Florida Derby before shipping to Louisville. Trainer Todd Pletcher has eight career Preakness starters with zero wins (and he doesn’t have a great track record turning around horses on this short a layoff). Jockey John Velazquez is 0-for-7 in the Preakness, with two second-place finishes.
A good bet?: He was clearly the best two weeks ago and has the look of a potential superstar, but unless you like some big long shots underneath him, he won’t give you much value in this race.
5 — Classic Empire (3-1)
Need to know: “We got wiped out at the start,” trainer Mark Casse said of Classic Empire’s Derby run. The 2-year-old champ was hammered out of the gate by the horses to his outside then had his momentum stalled again by more contact after a wide move into the stretch. Still, he kept running for a fourth-place finish. Classic Empire emerged from the race with a badly swollen eye, but Casse has the Arkansas Derby winner in good shape for the Preakness and another — hopefully cleaner — run at Always Dreaming.
A good bet?: Not sure there’s that much of a talent difference between this colt and the Derby winner, and Classic Empire should go off at about triple the odds of Always Dreaming. He could easily turn the tables with a clean trip.
6 — Gunnevera (15-1)
Need to know: Gunnevera raced from the back of the pack — his normal position early — in the Kentucky Derby, swung wide into the stretch and never factored into the race, finishing seventh. He was a well-beaten third to Always Dreaming in the Florida Derby going into Louisville and won the Fountain of Youth Stakes with a 97 Beyer before that. Mike Smith replaces regular jockey Javier Castellano for this race.
A good bet?: Would rather have seen him take a few weeks off and try again in the Belmont Stakes. Least attractive of the Kentucky Derby runners coming back here.
7 — Term of Art (30-1)
Need to know: Trained by two-time Kentucky Derby winner Doug O’Neill, Term of Art was ninth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile before winning the Grade 3 Cecil B. DeMille Stakes at Del Mar to end his 2-year-old campaign. Since then, he has finished fifth in the Sham Stakes, fourth in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes, third in the San Felipe Stakes and seventh in the Santa Anita Derby. This will be his first race outside of California.
A good bet?: O’Neill apparently is a believer, but there’s little over the last few months that would make it seem like Term of Art has any chance Saturday.
8 — Senior Investment (30-1)
Need to know: Tates Creek High and UK grad Kenny McPeek trains Senior Investment, who came from way back to win the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland five weeks ago. Before that, he finished sixth and was never a factor in the Louisiana Derby. (Kentucky Derby also-rans Girvin and Patch were 1-2 in that race.) Senior Investment earned an 89 Beyer for his Lexington victory, the highest of his career, which puts him on the low end of this field.
A good bet?: Might be the most interesting option of the three 30-1 shots, although that’s not saying a whole lot. If you have to play one of those bombers, go with this one.
9 — Lookin At Lee (10-1)
Need to know: The 33-1 shot got a great Kentucky Derby ride from first-time jockey Corey Lanerie, who piloted Lee from the back of the pack to a second-place finish with a rail-skimming trip that brought memories of Calvin Borel. Despite those long Derby odds, he has always had the talent. He finished third in the Arkansas Derby after searching all over for room to run in the stretch, and he started his moves too late in the races that came before. His dad, Lookin At Lucky, won this race seven years ago.
A good bet?: He has improved in every race, and another step forward could be enough to win Saturday. Don’t think that’ll happen, but he definitely belongs in the exotic bets.
10 — Conquest Mo Money (15-1)
Need to know: He helped set the pace in the Arkansas Derby and looked as if he might win at 17-1 odds before Classic Empire passed him a few strides from the finish. “Mo” was second to Hence in the Sunland Derby before that. He wasn’t nominated for the Triple Crown, and his connections decided not to pony up the $200,000 to get him in the Kentucky Derby. They’ll instead pay $150,000 to run him Saturday. It’s the first Triple Crown race for both trainer Miguel Hernandez and jockey Jorge Carreno.
A good bet?: He’s a gritty colt who has never finished worse than second in five career races, but that’s likely to change Saturday. He’s the best early speed here, but it’s tough to see him wiring this field. Might factor into the trifecta.
Recent Kentucky Derby winners and their Preakness results
I’ll Have Another
Mine That Bird
142nd Preakness Stakes
What: Second leg of Thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown
When: 6:48 p.m. Saturday
Where: Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore
Purse: $1.5 million (Grade 1)
Distance: 1 3/16 miles
Favorite: Always Dreaming (4-5)
2017 Preakness Stakes field
Wachtel Stable, George J. Kerr and Gary Barber
Klaravich Stables Inc. and William H. Lawrence
MeB Racing, Brooklyn Boyz, Teresa Viola, St. Elias, Siena Farm and West Point
John C. Oxley
Peacock Racing Stables
Term of Art
Fern Circle Stables
Lookin At Lee
L and N Racing
Conquest Mo Money
Judge Lanier Racing