Field of fresh horses awaits Derby winner in Preakness
Always Dreaming is headed to the Preakness in two weeks, when the Kentucky Derby winner is likely to face several fresh horses that skipped the first leg of the Triple Crown.
A majority of the 20-horse field that ran on a sloppy Churchill Downs track in Saturday’s Derby won’t go on to Baltimore.
Trainer Todd Pletcher said Sunday that Always Dreaming will head to Baltimore on Tuesday so the 3-year-old colt has plenty of time to adjust to his new surroundings ahead of the 13/16-mile race May 20.
“At Pimlico, there’s generally not a lot of horses training there,” he said. “It will be a quiet environment, give us time to get him settled in and if we have to make any adjustments, we’ll have time to do that.”
Always Dreaming will take up residence in stall No. 40, which traditionally houses the Derby winner in the Pimlico stakes barn.
The dark bay colt was difficult to train in the days leading to the Derby, forcing Pletcher to adjust his equipment. Eventually, Always Dreaming settled down and won by 23/4 lengths, equaling the longest streak of favorites to win since five in a row did so in the 1890s.
“He’s really got some spring in his step this morning,” Pletcher said.
The 49-year-old trainer and jockey John Velazquez won their second Derbies. Pletcher was still sorting through hundreds of congratulatory text messages, including ones from Hall of Fame basketball coach Lute Olson and Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett.
No horse asserted his dominance in the winter prep races leading up to the 143rd Derby. As the winner, Always Dreaming commands respect. However, the colt isn’t scaring away the competition in the Preakness.
The field for the second leg of the Triple Crown is capped at 14 – six fewer than the Derby.
“There’s not that much separation from this bunch of 3-year-olds right now, from what I can see, other than maybe the winner yesterday,” said trainer Ken McPeek, who is pointing Lexington Stakes winner Senior Investment toward the Preakness.
Among Always Dreaming’s Derby rivals, second-place finisher Lookin At Lee and 13th-place Girvin are possible for the Preakness. Fourth-place Classic Empire clears up could join them if the issue with his right eye clears up.
Classic Empire got banged into by McCraken in the start of a chain-reaction collision and his eye was nearly closed shut Sunday.
“I’d like another crack at everybody because he had a trip from hell,” trainer Mark Casse said. “He looks a bit like Muhammad Ali after a rough night.”
Southern California-based Royal Mo, who didn’t get into the Derby, will run in the Preakness.
Gunnevera, who was seventh in the Derby, is another possibility.
Other possible new shooters include Illinois Derby winner Multiplier, Cloud Computing, Conquest Mo Money and Lancaster Bomber from the barn of Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien.