BALTIMORE – At Wednesday afternoon’s post position draw for Saturday’s $1.5 million Preakness Stakes (G1), Always Dreaming, the impressive winner of the Kentucky Derby (G1), was assigned post 4 and installed the 4-5 favorite in the 10-horse field.
The Todd Pletcher-trained Always Dreaming will represent the ownership group of MeB Racing, Brooklyn Boyz Stable, Teresa Viola Stable, St. Elias Stable, Siena Farm and West Point Thoroughbreds in the 142nd running of the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown in a quest to become the 36th horse to capture both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. The last horse to accomplish the feat was American Pharoah, racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner, in 2015.
“I think [the post] is fine,” Pletcher said. “He was 4 in the Florida Derby and 5 in the Kentucky Derby. He’s generally a very good horse away from the gate. We’ll just come away and try to establish some position and see what some other horses are doing.
“He’s done great [at Pimlico],” Pletcher added. “He’s training forwardly, aggressively, manageably — everything we would like to see.”
Among Always Dreaming’s nine rivals are four of his foes from the Kentucky Derby: Classic Empire, the morning line’s second choice at 3-1, Gunnevera, Hence and Kentucky Derby runner-up Lookin At Lee. Five newcomers — Cloud Computing, Conquest Mo Money, Multiplier, Senior Investment and Term of Art — round out the field.
Post time for the Preakness, which will be run as the 13th race on a 14-race program, is 6:48 p.m. First post is 10:30 a.m. and doors open at 8 a.m.
The 1 3/16-mile Preakness is the centerpiece of nine stakes on Saturday, totaling $2.65 million in purse money. Sharing the card with the Preakness is the $250,000 Longines Dixie (G2), $150,000 Stella Artois Gallorette Stakes (G3) and $150,000 Maryland Sprint (G3).
The entertainment on Preakness Day, the most celebrated day in Maryland racing, is as plentiful as the racing action. Headlining Saturday’s Budweiser InfieldFest, one of the country’s most eclectic outdoor music festivals, is multi-platinum crossover artist Sam Hunt, joined by Grammy and Billboard award-winning electronic music artist Zedd, pop-punk award-winning and multi-platinum artist Good Charlotte, along with LOCASH, Preston Brust and High Valley.
Friday’s card is highlighted by the 93rd running of the Black-Eyed Susan, Maryland’s premier event for 3-year-old fillies. The Grade 2 is part of a 14-race program that features six stakes, four graded, worth $1.15 million, including the $300,000 Xpressbet Pimlico Special (G3), $150,000 Allaire DuPont (G3) and $150,000 Adena Springs Miss Preakness (G3). First post is 11:30 a.m.
Friday’s racing action will be complimented by the return of the Ultimate Girls Day Out, an entire afternoon dedicated to the spirit and strength of women.
“We’re looking forward to an incredible weekend at Pimlico Race Course of world-class racing and entertainment,” said Sal Sinatra, President and General Manager of the Maryland Jockey Club. “Racing on both Friday and Saturday will feature competitive fields, guaranteed pools and Always Dreaming’s attempt to win the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown in the 142nd Preakness Stakes.
“Along with our world-class racing over two days, we’ll play host to another extraordinary Budweiser InfieldFest headlined by Sam Hunt and special guest Zedd, as well as the Ultimate Girls Days Out. The Stronach Group continues to rejuvenate Maryland racing and reimagine the racing experience with first-class service, dining and entertainment. We look forward to a memorable weekend.”
Trainer Todd Pletcher (Always Dreaming, PP No. 4; 4-5) – “Like I said before, I wasn’t overly concerned about where we drew. He was 4 in the Florida Derby, 5 in the Kentucky Derby. He’s generally a very alert horse away from the gate. He’s a good horse standing in the gate. I guess if you were hand selecting wherever you drew maybe you’d like to be outside of Conquest Mo Money. As we know, in a lot of races things change as soon as the gates open. We’ll just let him run his race.”
“I don’t think [Classic Empire being in Post 5] matters, as long as everybody breaks cleanly. I would imagine that Classic Empire is going to keep an eye on where we are. The first and second choices are side by side.”
Trainer Mark Casse (Classic Empire, PP No. 5; 3-1) – “We’ll hope for a good break. Always Dreaming is obviously a very good horse. We just want a fair shot at him. Conquest Mo Money will probably show speed from the outside and Always Dreaming will be right there, but if we break running, we can be there, too. It’s a good post.”
“I wouldn’t have wanted to be right down on the rail, and I prefer not to have been on the outside. The post position wasn’t that big a deal. But I think it’s nice [that the two favorites are next to each other]. It’s nice for the fans, for everybody. Hopefully they both have good trips, break well. It could be interesting. They might go right at it from the start.”
“I like it a lot better being 5 and Always Dreaming being 4 than us being 4 and he’s 5, because that puts Julien (Leparoux) more in the driver’s seat. He can watch, and if we break running and Always Dreaming doesn’t, we may be on the lead. If Always Dreaming breaks running and we break running, if Julien thinks Always Dreaming is running too easy, he’ll go up and engage him earlier. If he thinks he’s running, he’ll sit back.”
Scott Blasi, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen (Lookin At Lee, PP No. 9; 10-1; Hence, PP No. 3; 20-1) – “In years past, they’ve shown a lot of pace in the Preakness. It’s supposed to be a fast track that day. Both of our horses close. I thought Hence got shuffled back quite a bit in the Derby, farther back than he normally would be. Lee is going to run his race every time. He always does; he tries so hard. We just need a few things to go our way and for there to be some good pace in the race.”
“We’ll see how he breaks and where he positions himself. This track is not Churchill. When the gates open we’ll see where we end up.”
“Lookin At Lee, being the [Derby] runner-up, great race, great ride by Corey Lanerie. He’s proven he belongs with these. He had a troubled trip in the Arkansas Derby or things might have gone a little different there. That being said, he brings his game every time. He’s a blue-collar horse and probably easy to overlook, but not for us.”
Trainer Chad Brown (Cloud Computing, PP No. 2; 12-1) – “I’m fine with the post. He should be able to work out a good trip from there.”
Trainer Miguel Hernandez (Conquest Mo Money, PP No. 10; 15-1) – “I like it. The last three times I had all outside positions and the best happened to us. You are out of trouble and you can see how it is going to play. I like that hole. From there, you can go in front or go behind. You can play many, many things.”
Trainer Antonio Sano (Gunnevera, PP No. 6; 15-1) – “The post position is good. It is right near the middle. It is two furlongs from the first turn and my horse runs from behind. It’s no easy race, but it’s a different race. There’s not 20 horses; it’s quite a difference.”
Trainer Brendan Walsh (Multiplier, PP No. 1; 30-1) – “It’s the shortest way around. I’d rather that than draw way outside. I don’t think it makes a huge difference, especially to him. He’s been crowded before; he’s been in kick-back before. I think it’s fine. We wanted middle to inside.”
Trainer Kenny McPeek (Senior Investment, PP No. 8; 30-1) – “It’s fine. He’s a closer. I don’t see it being an issue.”
Trainer Doug O’Neill (Term of Art, PP No. 7; 30-1) – “Lucky 7. He’s a strong, long, good-bodied horse, and I always think with those horses, the less traffic they encounter early on, the better. I think 7 will have to be perfect.”