Sport

Pletcher confident of Derby winner at Preakness

Pletcher confident of Derby winner at Preakness

He was on the wrong end of a chain reaction that started with a poor break out of the gate from Irish War Cry and ended with Classic Empire being slammed by the horse to his outside.

In 2016, Classic Empire was the 2-yr old champion and made his 2017 debut in February in the G2 Holy Bull where he finished a disappointing 3rd. Adding insult, he got hit in the right eye - likely by a mud clod - and couldn't open it after the race. "And we sure didn't change our mind given the results of the Derby". "In December 1995, we had the strongest stable in the world probably, and to leave a secure assistant job, and a great job around the best horses that were in training at that time".

Preakness Stakes contender Gunnevera, left, is escorted on the track at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Friday, May 19, 2017. A fast track is anticipated.

IBT Prediction: This is Always Dreaming's race to lose.

"I know Todd's got a significant amount of confidence that we're going to show up on Saturday", Finley said of Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher, "and I feel the same way". "He's always at the front of the stall, has his head out and his ears up and taking in the scenery". He hasn't raced outside of California before, so I'm interested to see how he takes to mostly East Coast competition.

"I think it's an ideal spot for Classic Empire", Pletcher said. The Pimlico odds maker has posted opening odds of 4-to-5 on the Derby victor. American Pharaoh was the last Triple Crown victor in 2015. A descendant of the legendary Northern Dancer, who ran to victory in record time in the 1964 Kentucky Derby and followed up with wins at the Preakness and the Queen's Plate, Lookin at Lee has recorded five top-three finishes in seven career stakes races but has yet to find the winner's circle.

Notes: Super Saver headed into the Preakness as the favorite but faded and finished eighth out of 12 entrants.




The top two colts - Kentucky Derby victor Always Dreaming and hard-luck, fourth-place finisher Classic Empire - look clearly superior to the ho-hum horses that make up the rest of the field. "I've never thought about having a stakes horse like this and being here". Lookin At Lee is the third favorite to win the Preakness at +1000.

For the trifecta, I'll play it with Classic Empire keyed in the first position with Gunnevera, Conquest Mo Money, and Always Dreaming boxed in the second and third position. He finished seventh, a distant thirteen lengths behind the victor.

However, victory has eluded Pletcher at the Preakness, with each of his previous eight entries coming up short in the second jewel of the Triple Crown. All you have to do is look at the Breeders' Cup. The five-year-old son of Ghostzapper won the Santa Anita Handicap earlier this year.

"Lee is going to run his race every time", said Scott Blasi, assistant trainer to Steve Asmussen, who also has Hence, at 20-1, in the race. Multiplier comes off a win in the Illinois Derby and will start from the rail.

Hence, the 11th-place finisher in the Derby, is listed at 20-1 on the morning line. He did have a nice rebounding effort after the disappointing seventh in the Southwest Stakes, coming back to win the Sunland Derby a little over a month later.

"If I could draw it out, Always Dreaming would go full tilt and him and Conquest Mo Money go at it for about three-quarters of a mile, and we sit behind them and watch", Casse said. The races are run on different tracks, at different distances and often with a substantially different field of rivals.


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