Sidelines with John Clay

Preakness prediction poll: Classic Empire runaway pick to turn the tables

Always Dreaming may have won the Kentucky Derby in convincing fashion, but it wasn’t enough to convince a media poll that the current star of Todd Pletcher’s barn can make a repeat run in the Preakness.

Of the 20 media members I polled, 14 picked Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Arkansas Derby champ Classic Empire to bounce back off his fourth-place Kentucky Derby finish and win Saturday’s second jewel of the Triple Crown.

Always Dreaming collected just four first place votes — five if you count mine; I think he’ll go back-to-back — with Conquest Mo Money and Hence earning a winning nod each.

I also asked my media mob to pick a long shot that had the best chance of hitting the board at Pimlico.

Frank Angst — Blood-Horse

Winner: Conquest Mo Money

Long shot: Conquest Mo Money

“I actually like a long shot to win: Conquest Mo Money. He ran very well on the front end in the Arkansas Derby on a track that was playing toward closers; gamely battled Classic Empire before finishing just a half-length behind him. I like that connections specifically targeted Preakness off that effort.”

Frank Angst on Twitter

Rick Bozich – WDRB in Louisville

Winner: Always Dreaming

Long shot: Senior Investment

“I didn’t have Always Dreaming in the Derby. I had Irish War Cry, so you’ve been warned. I’m going back to Always Dreaming. He’s looked good here. Other trainers have said he’s looked good. (Todd) Pletcher seems very confident. Got a good post position. Doesn’t mean he’s unbeatable, but I think he’s doing well.”

Rick Bozich on Twitter

John Cherwa — Los Angeles Times

Winner: Classic Empire

Long shot: Term of Art

“I think Classic Empire was compromised in the Derby and will run well here. Maybe it’s my West Coast bias, but I think Term of Art is going to pass a lot of tired horses in the stretch and get a paycheck.”

John Cherwa on Twitter

Pat Forde — Yahoo

Winner: Classic Empire

Long shot: Hence

“Why Classic Empire? McCraken isn’t around to terrorize him this time. Long shot that might surprise: Maybe Hence can pull a Hansel, going from Derby bust to Preakness surprise.”

Pat Forde on Twitter

Jason Frakes — Courier-Journal

Winner: Classic Empire

Long shot: Conquest Mo Money

“Classic Empire. Much less likely to encounter the trouble he faced in the Derby and much more likely to show the form expected of him after a brilliant 2-year-old campaign.”

Jason Frakes on Twitter

Teresa Genaro — Forbes

Winner: Classic Empire

Long shot: Conquest Mo Money

“His fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby despite his rough start showed that last year’s juvenile champion isn’t done yet, and the bad behavior of earlier this year seems a thing of the past. With a clean trip in the Preakness, I expect his talent to surface and for him to hit the wire first.”

Teresa Genaro on Twitter

Evan Hammonds — Blood-Horse

Winner: Classic Empire

Long shot: Cloud Computing

“Last year’s champion made a better-than-it-looked run in the Kentucky Derby based on his start and wide run despite a perceived inside bias. Clean trip puts him on a par with Always Dreaming and we’ll see if he can deliver a second big effort off a short rest.”

Evan Hammonds on Twitter

Alicia Wincze Hughes — Blood-Horse

Winner: Classic Empire

Long shot: Conquest Mo Money

“I’m going to stick with Classic Empire. I’m still riding that train until it’s completely off the track. I think he’s looked really good in his training. With a clean trip, I want to see what happens with him.”

Alicia Wincze Hughes on Twitter

J. Keeler Johnson — America’s Best Racing

Winner: Classic Empire

Long shot: Cloud Computing

“While Always Dreaming seems to have come out of the Kentucky Derby very well and should be tough in the Preakness, I believe Classic Empire can turn the tables. In the Derby, a poor start left Classic Empire much farther off the pace than usual, forcing him to regroup and rally from behind while racing outside and covering much more ground than Always Dreaming. Despite these obstacles, Classic Empire managed to finish a solid fourth, beaten 8 3/4 lengths by Always Dreaming while running a bit more than nine lengths farther on the turns. With a better start on Saturday, Classic Empire should be able to secure his preferred position just behind the leaders, giving him every chance to run down Always Dreaming in the homestretch.”

J. Keeler Johnson on Twitter

Mike Kane — NBC Sports

Winner: Always Dreaming

Long shot: Conquest Mo Money

“Always Dreaming has just been so consistent and I’ve been watching him every day since he got here. Except for the one little burp on Monday morning, he’s just been a model of consistency. His body of work tells you that he’s good and he’s beaten a lot of good horses. Why can’t he come back and do that again on two weeks? I don’t think he really exerted himself massively to win the Derby.”

Mike Kane on Linked-In

Tom Leach — Keeneland

Winner: Classic Empire

Long shot: Gunnevera

“Classic Empire. The version of this horse that won the Breeders Cup Juvenile can win the Preakness and I think that’s what we will see this time. Gunnevera. Reports say this horse has gained weight from the Derby, suggesting he’s feeling much better — or that he likes crab cakes.”

Tom Leach on Twitter

Marty McGee — Daily Racing Form

Winner: Hence

Long shot: Hence or Gunnevera

“Hence is my pick to win. As with several others in the Derby (Classic Empire, Gunnevera, some non-Preakness horses), he didn’t come close to showing his best over that sloppy track in the Derby. He can qualify as my long shot, too, unless you want to count Gunnevera. I’ve got the race picked Hence, Classic Empire, Gunnevera.”

Marty McGee on Twitter

Jay Privman — Daily Racing Form

Winner: Always Dreaming

Long shot: Hence

“I picked Always Dreaming, thought he was very good in Derby setting/forcing hot pace and kicking clear. Long shot would be Hence, who had a rough trip over a surface he didn’t seem to handle.”

Jay Privman on Twitter

Ray Paulick — Paulick Report

Winner: Classic Empire

Long shot: Gunnevera

“1-Classic Empire. 2-Gunnevera. 3-Always Dreaming. Classic Empire ran a much better than looked race in the Derby with all kinds of trouble. With clear sailing, he’ll spoil Always Dreaming’s Triple Crown hopes.”

Ray Paulick on Twitter

Jennie Rees — Maryland Jockey Club

Winner: Always Dreaming

Long shot: Hence

“Just watching Always Dreaming train, I think he’s going to be tough to beat.”

Jennie Rees on Twitter

Ben Roberts — Herald-Leader

Winner: Classic Empire

Long shot: Hence

“Classic Empire — If he gets a relatively clean trip and a fair shot at Always Dreaming in the stretch, I think he’s got the talent to turn the tables on the Derby winner. Hence — Loved him in the Derby at 15-1 but he didn’t seem to like the track or his early positioning that day. Not giving up on him, especially with similar odds in a much smaller field.”

Ben Roberts on Twitter

Kent Taylor — WAVE in Louisville

Winner: Classic Empire

Long shot: Multiplier

“Classic Empire was my pick in the Derby. I think he had a lot of trouble and still ran a pretty good race. I think the mud was a factor. He got a bunch of mud in his face and Always Dreaming was relatively clean. It’s going to be a fast track here on Saturday and I think Classic Empire is going to get him.”

Kent Taylor on Twitter

Tim Sullivan — Courier-Journal

Winner: Classic Empire

Long shot: Hence

“Classic Empire. Am inclined to discount his disastrous trip in the Kentucky Derby and am sufficiently stubborn to believe he’s best horse.”

Tim Sullivan on Twitter

Childs Walker — Baltimore Sun

Winner: Classic Empire

Long shot: Gunnevera

“I’m picking Classic Empire to win the Preakness, which is no knock on Always Dreaming. He’ll run a good race. It just seems like Classic Empire is built up to have the best race of his career here after the rough trip in the Derby. He might be able to turn the tables.”

Childs Walker on Twitter

Brian Zipse — Horse Racing Nation

Winner: Classic Empire

Long shot: Conquest Mo Money

“I am going with Classic Empire. I believe the two-year-old champion ran an outstanding race in the Kentucky Derby, all things considered. He should be at his best in his third race back off his troubles, and will likely sit a great stalking trip just behind the Derby winner.”

Brian Zipse on Twitter

Preakness Stakes 2017 field









Brendan Walsh

Joel Rosario

Wachtel Stable, Kerr, George J. and Barber, Gary



Cloud Computing

Chad Brown

Javie Castellano

Klaravich Stables, Inc. and Lawrence, William H.




Steve Asmussen

Florent Geroux

Calumet Farm



Always Dreaming

Todd Pletcher

John Velazquez

MeB Racing, Brooklyn Boyz, Teresa Viola, St Elias, Siena Farm and West Point



Classic Empire

Mark Casse

Julien Leparoux

John C. Oxley




Antonio Sano

Mike Smith

Peacock Racing Stables



Term of Art

Doug O'Neill

Jose Ortiz

Calumet Farm



Senior Investment

Kenneth McPeek

Channing Hill

Fern Circle Stables



Lookin At Lee

Steve Asmussen

Corey Lanerie

L and N Racing



Conquest Mo Money

Miquel Hernandez

Jorqe Carreno

Judge Lanier Racing



When: Saturday, May 20

Where: Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Md.

Post-time: 6:48 p.m.

TV: NBC-18

Purse: $1.5 million (Grade 1)

Distance: 1 and 3/16 miles

Favorite: Always Dreaming (4-5)

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