The Preakness Stakes (Grade I)

5/20/2017 Pimlico Race Course-Race 13

The Preakness Stakes-$1,500,000—Grade I

1 & 3/16 Miles on Dirt for Three-Year-Olds

Post Time: 3:48 P.M. PST

Analysis by Michael Patricks

With all the rest and residue just barely settled from the 143rd Kentucky Derby, the 142nd Preakness Stakes has quickly arrived at racing’s doorstep this Saturday.  The inclement weather, wet surface, and rodeo-like beginning of the race proved to be the big story line from the Kentucky Derby.  Thus, here’s a look at Saturday’s forecast from AccuWeather’s Kevin Byrne: “After record highs were felt throughout the Northeast at midweek, the unseasonable warmth will depart in time for the 142nd running of the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore on Saturday. Spectators planning to spend the day at Pimlico Race Course can look forward to cooler and dry conditions along with a mix of sun and clouds.” “It will also end up being less humid…,” said AccuWeather Meteorologist Tyler Roys.

Five Derby holdovers will join up with five new shooters, forming a field of 10 three-year-olds to be dispatched upon Old Hilltop just before 4 o’clock locally. The odds-on morning line favorite is Always Dreaming who arrives in Maryland as strictly the one to beat.  His main foe on paper appears to be Classic Empire who has been installed as the 3/1 second choice.  The balance of the cast sits at double-digit prices on the morning line but could liven up the exotics for those savvy enough to use them.  Hey, it can happen! A local horse player had the Trifecta 80 times on Kentucky Derby Day using just a six-dollar combination.  Let’s make Saturday your best day ever!

1-Multiplier 30-1 ML- First, the upside: He arrives in Maryland in search of three straight and stepped up off a maiden victory at the Fairgrounds to defeat Grade III runners in the Illinois Derby (a once-proud race that past Kentucky Derby winners had used as a stepping stone en route to Louisville).  This colt sat in nicely behind rivals from the fence in the Illinois Derby, patiently waited his turn and then brought his best effort to wear down a loose leader in Hedge Fund.  His trainer is largely unheralded from a national perspective and you’re getting a tremendous price on a horse who is heading in the right direction with a money rider cast atop his back.  Drawbacks: He’s taking on the best in class of his group and must avoid getting shuffled too far back with his inside draw, leaving him way too much to do against more proven commodities.  On paper, he looks to be a bit distance-limited being by The Factor, though he did rally nicely going nine furlongs at Hawthorne.  Typically, there are many more chinks in the armor at 30/1 then you can find in this horse, and even though it appears his chances don’t quite add up on the win end, it wouldn’t shock me to see him arrive on the lower rungs of vertical sequences (Cherry Wine splashed home for second last year from the rail at 17/1); not the worst home run cut but he needs pace to chase.

2-Cloud Computing 12/1 ML- Only a  hypnotist or some other master at allaying suspicion could convince me to run up to the window and bet this horse in the Preakness.  Each and every horse coming out of the New York prep races have subsequently taken a hit in their next start with Irish War Cry the most recent perpetrator in this most dubious pattern.  Cloud Computing has just the maiden win to his credit and exits the Junior Varsity-like Gotham and Wood Memorial after taking money in both those races.  Now the public is being asked to stomach 12/1 on him off those week company lines and I can’t run to the hills fast enough.  His best chance is to be put in the race early and see what happens, especially since he couldn’t run with J Boys Echo or Irish War Cry when it mattered most the last couple outs.  The problem with that strategy is that by jumping in the race early on, it will more than likely offer him up as an early race appetizer for Always Dreaming, leaving him little to no chance to win that battle, let alone survive the overall war of attrition in the Preakness.  If he stays in behind Always Dreaming, there’s little to no doubt the Derby winner will have no problem shrugging him with Cloud Computing more than likely fading into the Maryland night.  I’ve been wrong before and will definitely be wrong again, but this colt is simply not part of my calculus.

3-Hence 20/1ML- Have always been a fan of this beautiful chestnut and included him in my Top 4 in the Kentucky Derby preview. Like many, Hence did not get out of the gate too well in the Derby and he basically plodded around the course to a nondescript eleventh-place finish.  Trainer Steve Asmussen felt like Hence barely ran at all and wanted to give him another opportunity in the Preakness.  If the Kentucky Derby effort was essentially a public workout, then Hence deserves a second look on a bounce back angle.  However, he will need pace to chase and Hence will also have to out kick more proven commodities in the lane in order to right the ship.  He appears to be on a good race/bad race pattern which means a good race could be in the forecast.  Instinct tells me that his 97 Beyer Speed Figure from the Sunland Derby may be a bit of an outlier at this point and it’s quite possible he’ll have far too much to do when the screws tighten around the far turn on Saturday; price is right to entice, but siding against.

4-Always Dreaming 4/5 ML- Took it to yours truly and the rest of his naysayers in spades of the Kentucky Derby with a front running score by open lengths.  To his credit, and against my belief going into the Run for the Roses, Always Dreaming was able to relax off trail blazing State of Honor and go by him without a care in the world and had much left in reserve for the stretch drive.  It appears the draw reigns have done this horse a world of good with his morning training and has enabled him to relax much more and be less headstrong early on in his races.  The tried and true axiom is that pace makes the race and that’s true at any level of horse racing.  Even though it was a wet Derby, the pace was reasonable enough for Always Dreaming to do his best work and it’s difficult to envision the Preakness being much different.  Todd Pletcher has been extremely confident in his public comments leading up to Saturday’s Preakness and it appears the Always Dreaming camp feels confident enough to basically walk up to the Preakness without needing to do much of anything, especially given the peak condition this colt is in.  Expect Always Dreaming to shrug off whatever company goes with him on the front end and arrive at Belmont Park with a chance to be the thirteenth Triple Crown winner; strictly the one to beat and gets the call in here.

5-Classic Empire 3/1 ML- The logical alternative on paper to Always Dreaming, Classic Empire had a brutal trip in the Kentucky Derby but ran quite valiantly for as bad as things went.  He was jostled out of the gate and smacked sideways, had to go wide around the far turn and was only beaten a length for third by Battle of Midway.  Classic Empire returned from the race with an inflamed right eye that according to reports was about three-quarters swollen shut, appearing as if he had been on the receiving end of 12 rounds with Floyd Mayweather.  According to the cut men from Camp Classic Empire, the horse has rebounded quite well and is training super, with big things expected from him in the Preakness.  With a smooth getaway from the Preakness starting gate, Classic Empire should have a great spot off Always Dreaming, Cloud Computing and Conquest Mo money, sitting the garden trip if good enough.  There appear to be some déjà vu pedigree parallels headed into this dandy.  Classic Empire’s father (Pioneerof the Nile), was a well beaten second-place finisher in the 2009 Kentucky Derby to Mine that Bird who relished the slop, much like Always Dreaming.  He arrived at Pimlico and was sent off at 5/1 as second choice behind the 8/5 favorite in Rachel Alexandra and 6/1 Kentucky Derby-winning Mine That Bird.  Pioneerof the Nile finished 11th beaten 26 lengths in what was the final race of his career.  Classic Empire will try and turn the tables on his daddy’s performance with a win in the Preakness but he’ll have to run huge in his third race in five weeks to get it done.  My conclusion is it won’t be enough but he will look to make his Grand-sire proud (Empire Maker) by joining his legacy in taking down the Belmont Stakes in three weeks; strong contender.

6-Gunnevera 15/1 ML- Had a very difficult trip at a relatively low price in the Derby but according to his trainer came out of the race in good order.  His Beyer speed figures are on the decline in the last couple efforts but like many, he has an obvious surface and traffic excuse from the Kentucky Derby.  His pilot defects to Cloud Computing and “Mercenary” Mike Smith will be hoisted atop his back for the Preakness.  Smith disciples will pay special attention to this corner obviously, but Always Dreaming has gotten the best of Gunnevera two straight and the margins of victory have been increasing. My belief is if this horse hailed from a bigger outfit he’d probably sit this race out and point for the Belmont, but since this is his trainer’s first foray with the Triple Crown Series, he wants to run in all the legs if possible, unless the horse tells him he’s not up to it.  The pilot defection is a big turn off for me, especially considering Castellano bails for another that I’m not too high on (See above).  Think the body of work on Gunnevera is big enough to suggest that top honors are out of reach, especially since his Beyer numbers appear to be on the downside of the bell curve and the evidence on paper says he’s tailing off; pass.

7-Term of Art 30/1 ML- Wow, what a difference a year makes. Last year, Doug O’Neill arrived in Baltimore with the Kentucky Derby winner and race favorite in the Preakness with Nyquist.  On Saturday, he arrives with Term of Art at 30/1 who is an uncoupled entrant along with Hence representing Calumet Farm.  Term of Art is bred by the great Tiznow and has spent his entire career competing in California while trying to take down sharp, front running horses without much speed in his corner to aid his cause.  This horse has had a penchant for falling too far back in the early going and thus leaving himself with too much to do turning for home.  Putting the Blinkers back on this colt makes all the sense in the world as Doug O’Neill attempts to once again shake things up with him.  Joe Talamo and Tyler Baze were apparently unwilling to fly out of town to ride him so Jose Ortiz will get the leg up on Saturday.  His only chance is a complete pace meltdown, and even if that happens, it’s highly speculative to believe he will be able to out finish Classic Empire, Gunnevera, AND Lookin at Lee to be the last one standing.  It appears more than likely this race will put more foundation into him on his way to the 12-furlong Belmont Stakes in three weeks since he will have no problem getting the distance over Big Sandy; outsider.

8-Senior Investment 30/1 ML- Has rewarded his backers at square prices in 2017 at 6/1, 5/1 and 11/1, though he was disqualified three races back.  Last time out in the Coolmore Lexington, Senior Investment had a ground saving trip before fanning out at the top of the lane, narrowly prevailing in a three-horse blanket finish against No Dozing who was most likely best that day but has come back to lose off that effort.  This chestnut likes to sit back and make one big run, but the problem with that approach is that all the competitors around him want to do the same thing, and on paper he appears to be a poor man’s version to his competition.  Senior Investment likes to grind along at his own pace and wear down his rivals, but he must show an explosive turn of foot which has not been on display so far in order to factor into this.  His 78, 78, 83 and 89 Beyer Speed Figures in his last four races quite simply aren’t enough “oomph” to seriously threaten.  It appears he’s bringing a knife to a gunfight at the O.K. Corral and as such he’d be wise to saddle up with a Kevlar bullet proof vest for starters–tossing him out.

9-Lookin at Lee 10/1 ML- It’s kind of crazy that he’s a horse who has lost eight straight races and yet is third choice on the morning line to win the Preakness Stakes.  Just as the chart note mentions, Lookin at Lee had a dream trip and saloon passage from the inside of the Kentucky Derby, thanks largely to his neighbor Thunder Snow deciding to buck, prop and pull up after 40 yards, thus giving him much needed room to operate.  ‘Lee was only six lengths back at the first call of the Arkansas Derby and a whopping fourteen lengths back in the Kentucky Derby, yet rallied nicely to almost pull of the big upset.  Expect Corey Lanerie to get him to lay a bit closer than last time out, and with much less traffic in the race he should be within the same zip code as Always Dreaming at the half-mile pole.  The central question once again is pace and whether there will be enough to set it up for him.  Lookin at Lee’s sire,(Lookin at Lucky), bounced back from a dreadful rail performance in the Kentucky Derby to take the 2010 Preakness Stakes.  You can always count on Lookin at Lee to fire and you’d be wise to put him into your calculations once again on Saturday; the one to fear late.

10-Conquest Mo Money 15/1 ML- Supplemented to the race for a whopping $150,000, this $8,500 Keeneland purchase is unquestionably the feel good story of the race.  ‘Conquest enters as the blue-collar, lunch pail-toting horse who just wants to beat you.  He absolutely wore out Malagacy in the Arkansas Derby and was unyielding before finally getting run down by Classic Empire.  Before that, he was extremely brave while wide in the Sunland Derby, finally surrendering to Hence in the last three-sixteenths of a mile.  This New York-bred has never run a bad race and he shows three solid maintenance drills from Prairie Meadows in preparation for his start in the Preakness.  Expect his price to be shorter than Cloud Computing and his performance to be more memorable.  The connections wouldn’t have spent $150,000 after avoiding “Derby Fever” without this being the goal for quite some time.  He only started running after turning three so this is his big shot to take center stage; vertical players should make plans to join him instead of trying to beat him.

Selections: 4-5-10-9