Nosey neighbors: Top rivals slotted side-by-side at Preakness

Posted May 19, 2017

With trainer Mark Casse in attendance, champion Classic Empire (Pioneerof the Nile) joined Gunnevera on the track at 6:40 a.m.

First run in 1873, the Preakness Stakes was named by a former Maryland governor after a winning colt at Pimlico.

Classic Empire is the +300 second choice (bet $100 to win $300) following a fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. "They could go at it right from the start". Post position isn't as crucial in the Preakness as the Derby, but the last victor from Post 4 was Curlin in 2007.

Lookin at Lee has received little attention at Pimlico Race Course this week and is a 10-1 underdog in the Preakness behind Always Dreaming, the 4-5 favorite in Saturday's race after outlasting Lookin At Lee by a mere 2 3/4 lengths at Churchill Downs. “Hes usually a very good horse coming away from the gate.”. He drew the No. 9 post position.

Conquest Mo Money was under consideration for the Kentucky Derby but ultimately passed, as he would have been required to submit a $200,000 supplemental fee after not being nominated for the Triple Crown earlier in the year.

Over the last twenty years, ten Kentucky Derby winners (Silver Charm, Real Quiet, Charismatic, War Emblem, Funny Cide, Smarty Jones, Big Brown, I'll Have Another, California Chrome, and American Pharoah) have come back to win the Preakness, an eye-catching 50% strike rate. Casse insists the Preakness isnt about revenge, although he likened his horse to Rocky Balboa.

"The champ's been knocked down and he's going to come back and try to take back the crown", Casse said.

One of Always Dreaming's owners, Vinnie Viola, spent a sleepless Tuesday night watching clips of the most famous rivalries in racing history: Affirmed-Alydar, Sunday Silence-Easy Goer, Secretariat-Sham. Pletcher has watched the replay of horses getting bounced outside the Derby starting gate. Leparoux moved on Classic Empire approaching the far turn, racing well off the rail, then went extremely wide into the stretch on probably the slowest part of the racetrack, while Always Dreaming was skipping along close to the rail, which riders said was the best part of the track. "I don't think I would change anything to this point".

In the Preakness, Classic Empire should be able to stay much closer to the early lead than he did in the Derby, possibly stalking Always Dreaming through a modest pace. Pletcher has had very little luck with short turnarounds for horses, like his Super Saver, which won the 2010 Kentucky Derby but never won again, was 8th in the Preakness and only had one other career start, a fourth in The Haskell.

The Kentucky Derby two weeks ago was a bit hard to handicap because the race was run on a sloppy track in the rain. He will break from the No. 2 hole.

Conquest Mo Money could be in line for a big payday Saturday in the $1.5 million Preakness. Lookin At Lee has run 10 times and either improve or matched his previous figure each time, as have Multiplier and Senior Investment.

Gunnevera, Lookin At Lee, and Hence all have raced four times this year, as has Always Dreaming.

The storied Kentucky stable also has Term of Art, trained by 2012 Preakness victor Doug O'Neill.

Hence, Asmussen said, is coming back in the Preakness because he "didn't run his race or exert a lot of effort", owing to an off track over which he never appeared comfortable. Trainer Todd Pletcher wanted to give the dark bay colt plenty of time to adjust to his new surroundings since Always Dreaming proved hard to train in the days leading up to the Derby.

The entertainment on Preakness Day, the most celebrated day in Maryland racing, is as plentiful as the racing action. "We get along so well that it's like we're just one".