This content is courtesy of Pimlico Race Course.
A week after he laid out a schedule to prepare Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Always Dreaming for the 142nd Preakness Stakes (G1), trainer Todd Pletcher said Sunday morning at Pimlico Race Course that he is very happy with the colt’s status heading into the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.
Always Dreaming went to the track as usual, precisely at 6 a.m., Sunday and galloped under exercise rider Nick Bush before schooling in the starting gate.
“Aside from deciding to jog him one day instead of gallop, which turned out to be fine, literally everything has gone exactly the way we kind of mapped it out,” Pletcher said. “We got the quiet environment that we were looking for here. He’s settled in really well. Each gallop day has gotten progressively better. He’s showing us everything we hoped he would show us: good energy; good appetite; he’s moving great; he was good at the gate today.
He keeps checking off those boxes that we’re looking for. We’re really happy.”
Always Dreaming and Bush headed to the track shortly after sunrise of the first day of Preakness week. The rain system that had drenched the region for parts of three days was gone and he had his morning exercise under bright skies with the air temperature in the low 40s. The track was wet, but much improved over the sealed, sloppy condition of the previous two days. Wearing the draw reins that keep his head lower and make him easier to control, Always Dreaming galloped around the main track. The draw reins were added to his equipment a week before the Derby when he was too aggressive in training.
“I thought it went super, a very good gallop. We stretched him out a little bit and went almost a mile and a half,” Pletcher said. “Went back and stood at the gate and was a perfect gentleman; walked right in; looked great. Everything went perfectly.”
Pletcher thanked the Pimlico starter, Bruce Wagner, for making the crew available when the Derby winner was on the track for his early-morning exercise.
“We just wanted to make sure that nothing had happened since his last race. We like to stand all of our horses at the gate at least once in between starts,” Pletcher said. “It’s also helpful to let the crew here see him and get familiar with him. He’s very uncomplicated that way. He’s always been excellent at the gate.”
Always Dreaming traveled from Kentucky on Tuesday. He jogged with the pony Wednesday morning in a get-acquainted tour of Pimlico, galloped Thursday, jogged with a pony again on Friday over the sloppy track, and galloped both Saturday and Sunday.
“I think each day has progressively been better. I thought that today and yesterday were the two best gallops he has had,” Pletcher said. “He seems to be settling into the draw reins. He’s got his head carriage at a proper setting. We’re really happy.”
With warm and dry weather in the forecast this week, Pletcher said to expect more of the same with Always Dreaming’s training.
“We’ll stretch his gallops out a little bit like we did this morning,” Pletcher said. “We’re not looking to do anything too exciting. We’ll continue on that path, just some routine gallops. We’ll paddock school at some point this week. That’s pretty much it.”
Pletcher brought Always Dreaming directly to Pimlico three days after the Derby because he knew the stakes barn would be quiet for at least a week. That is changing now with more Preakness runners arriving, but Pletcher said he does not expect that increased activity will affect his colt.
“He’s been so professional and laid back about everything since he’s been here,” Pletcher said. “I would anticipate that everything will intensify throughout the week. That’s why we wanted to get a head start, get settled in and acclimated here before everything got too crazy. I would anticipate that it’s not going to bother him. He’s a very cool customer around the barn. He’s good in his stall. He’s a curious horse. He kind of keeps an eye on everything going on around him, but I don’t envision it being any problem.”
CLASSIC EMPIRE – John C. Oxley’s Kentucky Derby fourth-place finisher jogged a mile and galloped a mile at Churchill Downs Sunday morning. The Mark Casse-trained Classic Empire is scheduled to van to Pimlico Sunday afternoon.
CLOUD COMPUTING – Trainer Chad Brown reported that everything was “all good” with Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence’s Cloud Computing Sunday morning.
The son of Maclean’s Music breezed four furlongs in 48 4/5 seconds over the training track at Belmont Park Saturday morning.
Cloud Computing, who finished third in the Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct in his most recent start, is scheduled to ship to Pimlico Tuesday.
CONQUEST MO MONEY – Judge Lanier Racing’s Conquest Mo Money, the Arkansas Derby (G1) runner-up who has been supplemented to the Preakness, is scheduled to arrive at Pimlico Sunday after vanning from Prairie Meadows in Altoona, Iowa with a stop at Churchill Downs.
GUNNEVERA – Peacock Racing Stables’ Gunnevera walked the Preakness Stakes Barn shedrow Sunday morning after arriving by van from Churchill Downs Saturday afternoon.
“He is sharp and knocking the tub out,” said Larry Kelly, a former trainer who serves as an advisor to Gunnevera’s trainer Antonio Sano, who is scheduled to arrive in Baltimore Sunday afternoon. “He walked today and will go to the track tomorrow.”
HENCE, LOOKING AT LEE – L and N Racing’s Kentucky Derby runner-up Lookin At Lee, and Hence, who finished 11th in the Derby for Calumet Farm, galloped at Churchill Downs Sunday morning. Both Steve Asmussen trainees are scheduled for easy half-mile workouts Monday, before flying to Baltimore Tuesday.
The No. 1 post had not produced a top three finish in the Kentucky Derby since third-place finisher Risen Star in 1988, but Lookin At Lee’s jockey, Corey Lanerie, was determined to turn a seeming huge disadvantage into a major positive.
Lanerie had previously ridden in the Derby only twice, finishing 16th in 2014 and eighth in 2016, but promised himself that if he got the right horse that he wanted to get the trip that his fellow Cajun-born jockey Calvin Borel used en route to three victories in the Churchill Downs classic.
The winner of 12 riding titles at his hometown track in Louisville, Lanerie got his shot with Lookin At Lee, the Arkansas Derby third-place finisher. The jockey had never sat on the son of Lookin At Lucky until before the Derby in the paddock, but the son of the 2010 Preakness winner finally got the distance he craved and a rail-hugging ride to finish 2 ¾ lengths behind Always Dreaming, five-lengths clear of third-place finisher Battle of Midway. Now Lanerie is hoping for his first Triple Crown victory in Saturday’s Preakness.
“’The Mine That Bird trip’ was my plan, even before I had a mount,” said Lanerie, referring to victory by the 50-1 long shot under Borel in the 2009 Derby. “If I got a mount, I would try to ride like Calvin, save all the ground. Just try to pick up the pieces, unless I was on a speed horse and would be close or something like that.
“When I found out I was riding Lookin At Lee, I thought, ‘Well, he’s going to be back. I’m going to try to save all the ground I can and see what happens,’” he added. “You have to get lucky to win the Derby anyhow.”
Off at 33-1, the Asmussen trainee was in front of only one horse early and never had to go around a horse as he passed everyone but Always Dreaming. Lanerie said he had only two tight spots, the first being into the first turn, territory where many a Derby has been won or lost.
Heading into the far turn, Lookin At Lee switched over to his left lead “and he hit another gear,” Lanerie said while watching a replay. Then came the closest call, as Fast and Accurate, who had been part of the early speed, had to be checked in front of Lookin At Lee.
“I thought I was going to run into a wreck,” Lanerie said. “I thought he was going to come inside. Instead, I got lucky and they bounced right instead of left. It left the rail just wide open for me. Right here I said, ‘I’m going to win the Derby.’ I was coming so fast and so easy. I thought they all had to stop.”
With only one horse in front in mid-stretch, Lanerie finally tipped off the rail to try to reel in Always Dreaming. “And Always Dreaming just wouldn’t come back,” he said. “You come so close and you don’t get it done, but to run second on only my third Kentucky Derby mount, it was pretty special – just everybody calling you and congratulating you like you’d won.”
Lookin At Lee had finished 1 ½ lengths behind Classic Empire and a length behind runner-up Conquest Mo Money in the Arkansas Derby.
“I thought he could have beaten Classic Empire in the Arkansas Derby,” said Lanerie, who rode another horse in that race. “He would have beat him if it had been a mile and a quarter, it looked like, watching the replay. So he was going off the (morning-line) favorite, and I felt like my horse was better at the distance. So in my eyes, I thought I was on the favorite.”
The ultimate compliment might have come from Borel, the Hall of Famer, who told Lanerie, “I thought it was me on the horse.”
MULTIPLIER – Illinois Derby (G3) winner Multiplier breezed five-eighths of a mile in 1:00 4/5 in company with the 3-year-old maiden War Union. Trainer Brendan Walsh was aboard Multiplier through eighth-mile splits of 12 2/5 seconds, 24, 36 1/5 and 48 2/5 while on the inside of the workmate, galloping out three-quarters of a mile in 1:14 3/5.
Walsh also was aboard Xpressbet Pimlico Special (G3) contender Conquest Windycity, who worked five furlongs in 1:00 3/5 and galloped out in 1:14 1/5
“I’m very, very happy with both of them,” Walsh said. “Both worked really well, so both should be spot on for the weekend. That was very good for Multiplier. He doesn’t do anything that he’s not asked. That was as good a work as he can do. He’s never going to be spectacular in the morning. You’re never going to think, ‘Wow!’ But he showed good energy. I didn’t have to be super hard on him, which sometimes you have to really get after him.”
After defeating Hedge Fund in the Illinois Derby, Multiplier was sold to the partnership of Gary Barber, Adam Wachtel and George Kerr. He will race in Barber’s silks.
“They just came after him and got a deal together,” Walsh said. “Thankfully I got to keep him, so it was great.”
Multiplier is a son of the speedy The Factor and out of a mare by the speedy Trippi but he has raced only around two turns and is a late runner. The $62,000 weanling purchase at Keeneland’s 2014 November sale did not race at 2, earning his first victory March 18 on his third attempt at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans. He won Hawthorne Race Course’s April 22 Illinois Derby in his next start.
“Everybody says on his (handicapping) numbers that he fits,” Walsh said of the Preakness. “I think he’s entitled to take a chance. If he had broken his maiden two or three weeks earlier, we probably would have run him in some of the Derby trials. This morning when he worked, he kind of showed me he’s a fresh horse and ready to go again.
“I don’t think we’re going to see the best of him for maybe another two or three runs, because he’s so laid back,” he added. “I think that’s why he made such a gradual climb on his numbers every race he’s run. Because he’s coming along, coming along. It’s not something you can force with him. You have to let him do it himself.”
Multiplier and Conquest Windycity will jog Monday and gallop Tuesday at Keeneland before vanning overnight to Pimlico, where they will have a walk day Wednesday, Walsh said.
SENIOR INVESTMENT – Fern Circle Stables’ Senior Investment. the late-running winner of Keeneland’s Lexington (G3) in his last start, started off slow but came home flying to cover five-eighths of a mile in 1:02 in a Sunday workout. The Keeneland clockers caught the six-furlong gallop out in 1:14. The Kenny McPeek-trained Senior Investment, with jockey Channing Hill aboard, worked in company with Brazilian Grade 1 winner Some In Tieme, going the first eighth-mile in 13 seconds, the quarter-mile in 25 2/5 and the half-mile in 49 4/5, before going his next eighth in 12 1/5 seconds.
“He was waiting on the other horse, I think, and they dawdled a little bit the first three-eighths, but they came home well,” McPeek said. “That’s all he needed. He’s plenty fit…. Some In Tieme is no bad horse, and he pretty much dusted him.
“Look, our horse is ready to go. Is he good enough? Is the pace going to set up for him? I mean, how do they all draw? But he deserves a chance, and I think he’ll relish the mile and three-sixteenths, and he’s improving,” he added. “It just seems like he’s better and better every day. He’s like a copper penny (coat-wise) right now.”
It will be Hill’s first Preakness mount.
TERM OF ART – Trainer Doug O’Neill said Sunday that Term of Art came out of his Saturday work at Santa Anita in “excellent shape” and had an easy go of it on Mother’s Day while walking the shedrow.
“He’s doing well,” O’Neill said. “We know he’s an outsider, but I really, truly believe with the blinkers back on he’s got the talent to do it. We’re pretty convinced he needs them to get the best out of him.”
Owned by eight-time Preakness-winning stable Calumet Farm, the son of Tiznow worked six furlongs in 1:13 and change on a track that O’Neill said was “pretty slow.” O’Neill called the work “sensational.”
The colt, whose last start was a disappointing seventh in the Santa Anita Derby, will ship to Pimlico on Tuesday with his trainer coming in on Friday.