I’ll start off by saying that I’m going to handicap the Preakness without looking at the Kentucky Derby past performance chart because it was run on a sloppy track. That’s not saying I don’t think Always Dreaming can win the Preakness but the Derby set up perfect for him with the large field, the sloppy track, his post position and running style. It’s only a 10 horse field for the 142nd Preakness Stakes so breaking from the gate should be nowhere near at ruinous for a few of the horses than the Derby’s 20 horse field.
#5-Classic Empire (3/1). This was my selection in the Derby and I’m going to go back to him. Trainer Mark Casse will have Classic Empire as ready as he was for the Derby. He has been training well since his nagging injuries have healed. Also, he behaved well in the Derby which was a concern going into the race. Jockey Julien Leparoux will be happy to see only 10 horses break from the gate this time. He told Casse after the Derby, “I don’t know how I stayed up. I didn’t get bumped. I got clobbered.” Expect Classic Empire to get a clean break and to sit off the pace while letting Always Dreaming and Conquest Mo Money fight it out in setting a fast pace. I also like the fact he is the half-brother of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.
#4-Always Dreaming (4/5). After a clean trip in winning the Kentucky Derby this colt won’t have an easy of a trip this time out. Trainer Todd Pletcher though knows he’s got the colt to beat. Jockey John Velazquez should have an easy time setting the pace due to only one horse who should challenge him for the lead. Always Dreaming doesn’t need to the lead though and could come off the pace if that is how the race sets up. Pletcher’s record in the Preakness is 0 for 8 and he does not like to run his horses off of a short rest so come Saturday we’ll get some answers.
#10-Conquest Mo Money (15/1). This colt could be a major factor in the outcome of the Preakness. He did not run in the Kentucky Derby so he will be fresher than Classic Empire and Always Dreaming who will be racing on only two weeks of rest. I expect this colt to go right for the lead with Always Dreaming and set a quick pace. Keep this in mind also, Conquest Mo Money, was purchased for only $8,500 from the Conquest Stables dispersal at the Keeneland November sale and was not Triple Crown nominated, therefore the owners had to pay a supplementary fee of $150,000 to enter the Preakness Stakes. I expect him to be in the money.
Here is how the race will break down. It’s a given that Always Dreaming and Conquest Mo Money will be setting the pace. If Conquest Mo Money somehow gets the lead and sets a fast early ¼ mile it will be up to Velazquez at that time to challenge the lead or sit back with Classic Empire. I expect Classic Empire to sit off the pace and close in the stretch like he did in winning the Arkansas Derby. If Always Dreaming is on the lead and the pace is slow the race will be over by the ¾ mile pole and he’ll be wearing the blanket of black-eyed Susans (actually viking poms).
By the way, if you’re a percentage bettor the favorite of the Preakness has won almost 51% of the time. The most of any Triple Crown race. If you’re looking for a long shot…this may not be the race. The highest odds to ever win the Preakness was 23/1. Also, nine of the past 10 Preakness winners competed in the Kentucky Derby, and 47 of the past 54 winners were Derby entrants. If you want to make a good score you’ll have to play the exotic bets.