(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky). Kentucky Derby victor Always Dreaming, center, ridden by exercise rider Nick Bush, is escorted to the track at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Friday, May 19, 2017.
Preakness Stakes contender Classic Empire is washed after a workout at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Wednesday, May 17, 2017. "We've kind of taken our best shot at that by taking a pass on the Preakness and using that five weeks to prepare".
Lookin at Lee has received little attention at Pimlico Race Course this week and is a 10-1 underdog in the Preakness behind Always Dreaming, the 4-5 favorite in Saturday's race after outlasting Lookin At Lee by a mere 2 3/4 lengths at Churchill Downs.
The other issue for Always Dreaming and Pletcher: Another really good horse called Classic Empire, which finished fourth at the Derby, 8 3/4 lengths behind Always Dreaming.
"It's not a two-horse race", Classic Empire trainer Mark Casse said. They enter deep waters in the Preakness, but the smaller field size and outside post are both positives heading into the race. Altogether, he'll face nine other horses in the 1 3/16-mile race worth $1.5 million. If Always Dreaming gets off to a good start, as usual, from post 4, Velazquez can choose between setting the pace and stalking. This race has proven to be very formful over the years, with favorites or horses coming out of the Derby dominating the race. Two years ago, American Pharoah became the first horse to sweep the Derby, Preakness and Belmont in 37 years. This year, they bred that same mare, Above Perfection, the dam of Ky Derby victor Always Dreaming, who at 19 years old now, couldn't look better or stronger, to Nyquist, a Kentucky Derby victor himself a year ago, and a horse who also passed through Ryan and Dilger's hands.
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.
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They'll all be gathered together at Mccarthy's on Saturday, dreaming of a big win, the second leg in the Triple crown.
Bettors looking for an upset might love to think Always Dreaming won't have it as easy in Baltimore. "We don't want to see him get too excited and step on himself".
"He never was a real charismatic, amusing person", mentor and Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said, "but he always handled himself well".
"To me", Casse said Thursday after praising Always Dreaming and Conquest Mo Money, "the rest, they'll need to come with a game higher than they've shown so far". His connections paid a supplemental entry fee of $150,000 since he wasn't nominated to the Triple Crown. "Hopefully, on Saturday the best horse will win, and we hope that it's our horse". It wouldn't be shocking if Classic Empire makes it close, but Always Dreaming should prevail.
Lookin At Lee, the second-place finisher in the Derby, is the 10-1 third choice. Gunnevera is 15/1 and will start in the sixth gate, while Lookin At Lee is 10/1 and drew the No. 9 post. 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. The storied Kentucky stable also has Term of Art, trained by 2012 Preakness victor Doug O'Neill.
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