Always Dreaming looks very much for real as Preakness awaits


Sticking point: The brisk two-week turnaround from Kentucky Derby to Preakness.

Nine other horses - four from the Kentucky Derby and five shooters - that is, horses that didn't run at Churchill Downs on May 6.

The odds say Classic Empire is second best, just like they did at the Derby.

"It's very exciting and we're enjoying every minute of it", Ms. McKenna said as her horse is one of 10 in the field.

Most Americans only get fired up about horse racing three times a year: the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday of May, the Preakness Stakes on the third Saturday of May, and the Belmont Stakes three weeks after the Preakness. That race was 1 1/8 miles; the Preakness is 1 3/16, just a hair further.

So how much attention the Belmont receives in 2017 largely depends on what Kentucky Derby victor Always Dreaming does in the 142nd running of the Preakness Stakes on Saturday.

"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.

"I'm someone who has been in a lot of races and lost a lot of races, so I know you don't want to be overconfident", trainer Todd Pletcher said, "but I do feel very, very good about the way he's coming into it". After Wednesday afternoon's draw for post positions, the Kentucky Derby victor remains a strong favorite among the 10 contenders. I'll Have Another became the 33rd horse to win the Kentucky Derby-Preakness double by passing Bodemeister at the last minute to capture the second leg of the Triple Crown by a nose. American Pharoah swept the Derby, Preakness and Belmont two years ago, ending a 37-year Triple Crown drought.

Not only does Pletcher train a terrific horse, he employs the best jockey of his generation.

"The champ's been knocked down and he's going to come back and try to take back the crown", Casse said.

Always Dreaming won by 2¾ lengths.

Instead, after getting plowed shortly after the start, he got shuffled way back and never could get to the track's inside, where the footing was much better than out in the middle of the track.

Casse likes the neighboring posts.

"If I could draw it out, Always Dreaming would go full-tilt and him and Conquest Mo Money going at it for about three-quarters of a mile, and we sit behind them and watch", he said.

However, victory has eluded Pletcher at the Preakness, with each of his previous eight entries coming up short in the second jewel of the Triple Crown. "I thought I was going to win by a length that day and he really sprinted out". Breaking from post 14, Classic Empire was bumped out of the gate, regained position and was strong through to the final turn where he was forced five-wide, bumped again down the stretch and rallied to get up for fourth. Few would be surprised should Classic Empire add a Preakness win to an already stellar career resume. He will break from the No. 2 hole.

Hence, the 11th-place finisher in the Derby, is listed at 20-1 on the morning line. He certainly shouldn't have as long odds as Term of Art or Senior Investment.

"And Always Dreaming just wouldn't come back". When the year began, he was stamped as the clear Kentucky Derby favorite.

Trainer Steve Asmussen will saddle two starters: Lookin At Lee and Hence.

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.



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