BALTIMORE – Trainer Todd Pletcher was delighted to report Tuesday morning that everything went according to plan when his Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Always Dreaming galloped 1 ½ miles at Pimlico Race Course.
Always Dreaming was on the track at 5:30 a.m. with exercise rider Nick Bush for his daily exercise leading up to the 142nd running Saturday of the Preakness Stakes (G1), the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown. On Monday morning, the energetic son of Bodemeister stumbled slightly as he tried to buck off Bush. There was no repeat of the unwanted behavior on Tuesday.
“I’m really, really pleased with the way he went this morning. Everything went very smoothly – good energy, good controlled gallop, just moving really well,” Pletcher said. “It was, as they say, ‘exactly what we were looking for.’”
Pletcher smiled as he delivered the old trainer’s line and added: “It couldn’t have gone any smoother.”
Always Dreaming schooled in Pimlico’s indoor paddock later in the morning. He will be saddled there prior to the Preakness and then will be walked to the turf course to join the other Preakness runners for the post parade.
A field of 10 is expected to be entered Wednesday. The post-position draw is scheduled for 5 p.m.
Pletcher discussed how a few horses – including fourth-place finisher and Preakness candidate Classic Empire – had their chances in the Derby compromised by a chain-reaction collision of horses coming out of the first few stalls of the auxiliary gate. Always Dreaming, starting from Post 5, was not affected.
“When we were looking at the draw, we wanted Always Dreaming somewhere out there,” he said. “As it turned out, he got a better post from where he was. He was able to put himself in a spot to get himself a good, clean trip.”
Typically, there is a fair amount of drama surrounding the post-position draw for the 20-horse Derby. That’s rarely the case with the Preakness, which has a limit of 14 starters.
“I don’t think anybody is going to fret too much over the draw,” Pletcher said. “Sometimes you don’t know. It depends on how the track is playing on a particular day, whether the inside is better, the outside is better, speed is better. As far as the post position in this field, I don’t think it’s nearly as critical as the Derby.”
CLASSIC EMPIRE – John C. Oxley’s Classic Empire got acquainted with the Pimlico racetrack Tuesday morning while jogging a mile and galloping a mile.
“I thought he was really awesome this morning. I’m always a little apprehensive the first time a horse goes out to a track, especially when you come to a place like Pimlico that has a bunch of tents and a lot of things to look at,” said Norman Casse, the son and chief assistant to trainer Mark Casse. “A lot of times, he can be a little lackadaisical, but he was on the bridle. He looked really good. He had a lot of energy and more importantly, he was moving really good, looking really smooth. All of those are positive signs.”
The positive signs leading up to Saturday’s Preakness are especially appreciated considering the rough trip Classic Empire encountered in the Kentucky Derby, in which he took the brunt of a chain reaction of bumping leaving the starting gate and was forced to race wide. Despite the horrific trip, the 2016 2-year-old Eclipse Award champion managed to finish fourth behind victorious Always Dreaming, Lookin At Lee and Battle of Midway.
“We really think a lot of Always Dreaming. We think he’s a super talented horse. We really respect his connections and we always have, but we’re bringing a horse that has a legit chance to beat him,” Norman Casse said. “We’re hoping for everyone – all fans and everyone involved – that they both get fair trips and they’re both eyeing each other at the quarter-pole and can sort it out through the lane.”
Casse said Saturday’s Preakness starters are more likely to get cleaner trips in a field limited to 14 horses.
“It’s always a fairer race. You don’t have 20 horses. You don’t have a bunch of horses that don’t belong in the race. The Derby is the Derby. It’s always going to be a tough race to win because it’s such a crowded race,” Casse said. “Things get sorted out a little more in the Preakness.”
CLOUD COMPUTING – Preakness contender Cloud Computing was scheduled to leave Belmont Park at 10 a.m. Tuesday for the approximately 200-mile journey to Pimlico Race Course.
Earlier Tuesday morning, Chad Brown, the colt’s trainer, said via telephone from New York that he’s looking forward to participating in the Preakness for the first time. Last year’s Eclipse Award-winning trainer will be looking for his first victory in a Triple Crown race on Saturday. His combined record in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes is 0-for-5. Brown’s best finish with a Classic starter came with Normandy Invasion, his first Derby horse and the fourth-place finisher in 2013.
“It’s important,” the 38-year-old Brown said of adding a Classic win to his resume. “It’s one of those things when the time is right it will happen, we believe. Me and my team are lucky enough to be working with horses who are capable of winning these races and it’s our job to get them there. It’s really just exciting to participate. We expect to have success in these races at some point. Hopefully, it is Saturday.”
In Cloud Computing, Brown sees a late-comer with the potential to be the real deal. Purchased for $200,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale by Seth Klarman and Bill Lawrence, the son of Maclean’s Music was unraced as a 2-year-old and will be making just his fourth career start in the Preakness.
“The horse was one of the earlier 2-year-olds to come into my barn last year,” Brown recalled. “He showed a lot promise. We planned on running him early in the Saratoga meet and then the horse was injured. A minor chip in one of his front ankles. We just cleaned up the ankle and gave him some time off.”
Cloud Computing rejoined Brown’s operation at Palm Meadows in Florida over the winter, but it was just a layover before he headed north.
“I was trying to divide up some of the maiden unraced dirt colts and I decided to send a couple of them up to New York because they would fit up there and Cloud Computing was one of them,” Brown said. “He developed nicely in New York. I’m happy with that decision now. The New York route worked for him.”
In his first start, Cloud Computing overcame a troubled trip to win a six-furlong inner track race at Aqueduct in February by 1 ¾ lengths.
“He kind of got left at the gate and it was a sprint race, which I thought was short in distance for him to begin with,” Brown remarked. “He was out of position early and I didn’t give him much chance to win from there, but he did. I was impressed. It made me start thinking of putting him in a race right away, like the Gotham, because he was so talented.”
Cloud Computing went on to a second-place finish in the Gotham (G3) and followed with a third in the Wood Memorial (G2). Brown liked both of those efforts, and with enough Kentucky Derby points earned in those preps, the trainer and the owners had a discussion about bringing Cloud Computing to the big dance on the first Saturday in May
“Ultimately we decided even though he had the 40 Derby points to get into the race, it was just too much too soon for this horse to put him in a 20-horse field at a mile and a quarter,” Brown said. “He was playing catch-up all spring and for the purposes of the Kentucky Derby, we just ran out of time. We were really comfortable with that decision and fortunately we had another horse to represent us that had a good chance in Practical Joke [the fifth-place finisher in the Derby].”
With further time to reflect on Cloud Computing’s third in the Wood Memorial, Brown is inclined to view the effort as even better than he originally thought. Cloud Computing was beaten seven lengths by the winner, Irish War Cry, and 3 ½ lengths by runner-up Battalion Runner, who set the pace while under pressure from the winner.
“I thought the track in hindsight was favoring speed quite a bit that day, and Cloud Computing was one of the horses to actually make up ground. I think that race looks better now than it did in the moment,” he said. “I also think the six weeks between that race and the Preakness has worked very well for this horse. I see a horse who has put a lot of weight on. He’s fresh and coming into the race very well.”
CONQUEST MO MONEY – Judge Lanier Racing’s Preakness candidate Conquest Mo Money made his first visit to the track at Pimlico Tuesday morning under his regular rider, jockey Jorge Carreno.
Conquest Mo Money, runner-up in the Sunland Derby (G3) and the Arkansas Derby (G1) in his last two starts, arrived at the track Sunday afternoon following a two-day, 15-hour van ride from Prairie Meadows racetrack in Altoona, Iowa.
Carreno said that Conquest Mo Money is so relaxed and well behaved that he does not need to be accompanied by a pony in the trip from the barn to the track. As instructed by trainer Miguel Hernandez, who is expected to arrive later this week, Carreno had the New York-bred colt gallop a mile.
“The horse is doing great,” the Southwest-based rider said. “He felt good today going to the track for the first time. Nothing bothered him at all.”
Carreno, 34, grew up in Mexico and said he was introduced to racing because his father did some work as a groom. He came to the U.S. to ride in 2002. Carreno will handle the morning exercise assignment and will ride in his first Triple Crown race on Saturday afternoon. His lone graded-stakes victory was aboard Toccetive in the Canadian Derby (G3) at Northlands Park in 2012.
“I’m very happy and very confident on Conquest Mo Money,” Carreno said. “God has given him the gift to have the ability to race with this type of horses. I’m very excited. For me being a rider for 15 years, to have a horse like this is very special.”
Conquest Mo Money and Carreno have quickly forged a good relationship.
“I enjoy being on his back,” Carreno said. “He’s the first horse like this that I’ve had in my career. We just get along. We get along so well that it’s like we’re just one.”
Carreno said that Conquest Mo Money was comfortable on the track and appeared to adapt to his new surroundings every easily.
“It’s amazing. He just gets better and better,” Carreno said. “Every time I get on him he’s a different horse in every way. He really liked the track.”
Judge Lanier Racing owner Tom McKenna acquired the unraced son of Uncle Mo for a mere $8,500 in November at the dispersal sale of Conquest Stable. Since making his debut on Jan. 6, he has won three races and finished second in the two graded stakes while earning $508,900.
“In the morning, this horse is so calm. He doesn’t get excited about anything,” Carreno said. “When I first started working him, before he broke his maiden, we didn’t know what type he was going to be. He ended up breaking his maiden going a mile and he barely won. But they put him in a stakes race and he won easily. After that we knew we had a really good horse.”
GUNNEVERA – Peacock Racing Stables’ Gunnevera stretched his long legs during a half-mile jog in the company of a pony and an easy 1 ½-mile gallop under exercise rider Victor O’Farrell Tuesday morning at Pimlico.
“I’m very happy and proud of my horse. He had a very good morning on the track,” trainer Antonio Sano said. “The whole way around he was pulling the rider. He really wanted to gallop faster, but we wanted him to gallop easy. The horse was very excited to go to the track.”
Gunnevera, who finished seventh in the Kentucky Derby following a troubled start and a wide trip, has impressed onlookers with his gleaming chestnut coat, his physical condition, and his energy since arriving from Churchill Downs Saturday for a start in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.
“Some horses, after they run in the Kentucky Derby, they are down, but not this horse. He is strong. He has put on weight and is eating more. This horse is doing better than he was before the Kentucky Derby,” Sano said.
Gunnevera will have a new rider in the Preakness with Mike Smith taking over for Javier Castellano, who is honoring a commitment to ride the Chad Brown-trained Cloud Computing.
“Mike Smith is a nice person and a great rider,” Sano said. “He likes this horse and he wants to ride him. Mike Smith wins the most important races in the world.”
Gunnevera is scheduled to train Wednesday at 6:20 a.m.
LOOKIN AT LEE, HENCE – L and R Racing’s Lookin At Lee and Calumet Farm’s Hence were scheduled to fly out of Louisville early Tuesday afternoon on a Tex Sutton equine flight that originates in California. The Steve Asmussen-trained colts, who finished second and 11th, respectively, in the Kentucky Derby, are scheduled to arrive in Baltimore about 4 p.m.
Scott Blasi, Asmussen’s chief assistant, reported that both colts came out of their Monday breezes at Churchill Downs in good order.
MULTIPLIER – Illinois Derby (G3) winner Multiplier galloped at Keeneland Tuesday morning before being placed on a van at about 8:30 for a trip to Pimlico for Saturday’s engagement in the Preakness.
“He’ll probably get there around 7-ish,” said trainer Brendan Walsh, the former Eddie Kenneally assistant who is slated to saddle his first entrant in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown. The son of the ultra-speedy The Factor closed well to win the Illinois Derby by a head over favored Hedge Fund on April 22 in his last start.
In contrast to his apparent speed-based pedigree, Multiplier, who is out of a Trippi mare, has never run in a sprint in his first four career starts. He broke his maiden in his third try at Fair Grounds around two turns and then won the 1 1/8-mile Illinois Derby in 1:47.98, the second-fastest clocking in the race’s history.
“He’s not totally bred to go short,” Walsh said. “His second dam had distance in her pedigree and even some steeplechase background. The other factor for sure is his temperament. He’s so laid back. He just kind of takes his time and he kind of gets to rolling in the end part of his race. I never dreamed of running him short. I’ve never seen a horse as laid back as him.”
That’s the dichotomy of Multiplier, whose sire broke his maiden in a six-furlong race in 1:06.98 at Santa Anita for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.
“He never really showed me that kind of speed that he’s supposed to be bred for,” said Walsh, who had the good fortune of being retained as trainer following the sale of Multiplier from American Equistock to Gary Barber and company after the Illinois Derby for an undisclosed sum. “How often do we see horses that outrun their pedigree?”
James Graham, who rode him to victory at Hawthorne Race Course, even described Multiplier as “lazy.” Graham won’t have the return mount at Pimlico, but not because of anything he did or said. Walsh said he wanted a Triple Crown-experienced rider and got one when Joel Rosario became available.
Multiplier will be Rosario’s fifth mount in the Preakness, in which he twice rode the runner-up – in 2014 with Ride On Curlin and 2015 with Tale of Verve.
SENIOR INVESTMENT – Fern Circle Stables’ Senior Investment has flown comfortably under the radar while training for the Preakness at Keeneland and will literally fly into Baltimore on Tuesday afternoon, according to conditioner Kenny McPeek, who is expected to follow suit and arrive Tuesday evening.
“It’s not too complicated. He walked today, ships this afternoon and should arrive soon after,” McPeek said. “He’s done everything right in his last two works and his last one would have been a bullet, too, but he was waiting on his workmate.”
In his last two works since taking Keeneland’s Lexington Stakes (G3) on April 15, he has impressed onlookers. On May 8, he worked a bullet five furlongs at Keeneland in 1:00.40 and then on May 14 went the same distance in 1:02, finishing impressively while tracking a workmate.
The leggy son of Discreetly Mine has crossed the wire first in four of his last five starts but was disqualified from first to seventh in a first-level allowance score in January. Behind him that day were next-out Battaglia Memorial winner and stablemate It’s Your Nickel, as well as subsequent Keeneland allowance victor Society Beau. The latter runs in Saturday’s $100,000 LARC Sir Barton Stakes.
Wheeled back three weeks after that into an Oaklawn allowance event and ridden for the first time by jockey Channing Hill, the chestnut colt ran away from his competition by a widening three lengths. Six weeks later, they had a troubled trip when sixth of nine in the $1-million Louisiana Derby (G2) on April 1 before being wheeled back again to take the Lexington. Closing from 11 lengths astern that day, he won by a head at the wire, despite the abbreviated stretch of 1 1/16-miles races at Keeneland. All three efforts were with Hill, who appears to synchronize well with the closer.
“We’ll leave the [running of the] race up to Channing,” McPeek said. “He knows the horse and knows how he runs. Can [Senior Investment] raise himself up to the next level? I’ve seen it done. He’s a really confident horse right now and doesn’t know he’s running for $1.5 million and in a Grade 1. Other than the Louisiana Derby, where he didn’t have a great trip and still ran hard, he’s done little wrong.”
McPeek, who has finished first (Sarava, 2002) and third (Atigun, 2012) in the Belmont Stakes (GI) and second (Tejano Run, 1995) in the Kentucky Derby, teams up with Fern Circle –
the stable of real estate developer and former Reebok CEO Paul Fireman – in hopes of his first Preakness.
“It’s very exciting to be here with him,” McPeek said. “He’s bringing his family and it’s going to be a fun time.”
TERM OF ART – Calumet Farm’s California-based Term of Art was scheduled to be vanned from Santa Anita to the nearby Ontario airport for a Baltimore-bound flight Tuesday morning. He was expected to arrive at Pimlico Race Course late in the afternoon or early evening.
Trainer Doug O’Neill said he would remain behind until Friday with assistant Sabas Rivera, an exercise rider and the colt’s groom accompanying the son of Tiznow on Tuesday. He is scheduled to walk the shedrow on Wednesday and make his first trip to the track on Thursday morning.
Term of Art comes into the Preakness as one of the more experienced runners in the field with nine career starts, but he has yet to win in four starts as a sophomore. He broke his maiden in his third start at Santa Anita in October, then finished ninth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1).
O’Neill then decided to give turf a try, but the C.B. DeMille (G3) was rained off the grass at Del Mar in late November and Term of Art earned his first stakes win when he won the one-mile event on the main track listed as ‘good.’ He’s 0-for-4 since, but O’Neill still believes there’s talent to be tapped.
“He did run third in the Grade 2 San Felipe out here at Santa Anita,” he said. “He’s knocked heads with some pretty good horses. Even in the Santa Anita Derby he was pretty far out of it and he still came running around through the lane [during a seventh-place finish]. Gormley was in there and Royal Mo and Battle of Midway – he ran third in the Kentucky Derby.”
O’Neill put blinkers back on Term of Art after the Santa Anita Derby and he’s been encouraged by his four works and his subsequent training since then.
“With the blinkers going back on I’m optimistic we’re going to see a big effort from him,” O’Neill said. “He’s the son of a two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, so the distance should be no problem.”
When Oxbow won the 2013 Preakness for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, it brought Calumet Farm’s record Preakness win total to eight.
“I want to make it nine,” O’Neill said.