Rated the second pick for the Preakness at 3-1 was Classic Empire, who finished fourth at the Kentucky Derby and will break alongside Always Dreaming from the fifth gate.
The two best horses in the Preakness will be eyeball to eyeball coming out of the starting gate. Hes the champ and were just going to go after him..
Trainers (by post position): 1, Brendan Walsh. "The last few times he got an outside position".
"That doesn't matter to him [the horse] that he's outside", Sandy McKenna said.
Always Dreaming has one leg down and two more to go. He doesn't need the lead. Of his eight prior starters, only Impeachment, Circular Quay (2007), and 2010 Derby victor Super Saver have run back after the first Saturday in May.
In addition to Classic Empire (Julien Leparoux to ride), Conquest Mo Money (Jorge Carreno) and Lookin At Lee (Corey Lanerie), the field is also expected to include Senior Investment, a February 18 first-level allowance/optional claiming victor at Oaklawn, and Hence, whose January 16 maiden victory was Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen's 500th career victor in Hot Springs.
"Hopefully, they both have good trips, break good and it could be interesting", said Mark Casse, who trains Classic Empire.
World Approval, who drew Post 2, has early speed, a tactical advantage Casse would like to exploit to its fullest. If that doesn't happen, well, the Stronach Group, which owns the facility, has said it would consider moving the Preakness to nearby Laurel Park. "Always Dreaming's a very good horse, and we just want a fair shot at him". If we cant win, I want Always Dreaming to win because this sport is so important to me.
"I think it's going to be a good race and it will be a good test". "I think if they both break running, they may go at each other from the beginning".
Now healthy and charging through his workouts, Classic Empire appears poised for a bounce-back performance Saturday in the Preakness. All you have to do is look at the Breeders' Cup. "I don't think there is anything we ever read into why he hasn't run well in back-to-back races".
"He's been training great for a long time now and he continues to show us the same things he showed us leading up to the Derby", Pletcher said. "He's probably only ever run two bad races in his whole career, on the turf, anyway". The Casse-trained World Approval, a Grade 1 victor, is among 10 older males entered in Saturday's 116th running of the Dixie, a 1 1/16-mile turf race, carded as the race before the Preakness.
Pletcher did say that if one could he handpick the draw, he would have liked to be outside Conquest Mo Money, who is expected to be the early, but not lightning-fast, speed.
Newcomers to the Triple Crown campaign include Cloud Computing (12-1), Conquest Mo Money (15-1), Multiplier (30-1), Senior Investment (30-1) and Term of Art (30-1).
While the short rest between the first two legs of the Triple Crown has been a popular lament for some horsemen over the years, the modern history of the Preakness reflects a trend that is actually most unkind to the oft-proclaimed "new shooters" and their fresh legs compared with those coming out of the Kentucky Derby melee.