With a brief display of rambunctious behavior early Monday morning Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Always Dreaming showed trainer Todd Pletcher that he hasn’t lost the edge that helped propel him to victory on May 6 at Churchill Downs.
Pletcher shipped Always Dreaming to the quiet stakes barn at Pimlico Race Course three days after his 2 ¾-length Derby victory to give the colt time to settle in and relax in preparation for a scheduled start in the Saturday’s 142nd Preakness Stakes (G1). That worked well for six days, but on the seventh Always Dreaming released some energy moments after he stepped onto the track at 6 a.m. with exercise rider Nick Bush up.
“He actually scared me a little bit because he was feeling so good when he went off,” Pletcher said. “The first couple of strides he went to try to buck Nick off and kind of stumbled a little bit when he did it. But he got right back on his feet and after that it was a very smooth, energetic, good gallop. Obviously, you don’t want any stumbles at this stage of the game, so it gave me a little bit of a fright.”
Pletcher said the son of Bodemeister was fine when he returned to the barn and cooled out well from his 1 ½-mile gallop.
The week before the Derby, Always Dreaming was so aggressive in training that Pletcher changed exercise riders, moving to the stronger Bush, and added draw reins to the equipment. Draw reins force the horse to keep his head down and make him easier for the rider to control.
Pletcher chuckled at a question about whether the Monday event was his first nervous moment.
“Here? Yeah,” he said. “That was every morning at Churchill. But this morning? Here? Yeah, here. It’s a good thing that he’s feeling that good, but we’re just trying to keep him healthy. That’s our main goal. We don’t want him to make a mistake.”
Pletcher acknowledged that the draw reins caused Always Dreaming to lose his balance but kept him from taking Bush for a ride.
“The problem was that he was trying to buck with the draw reins on,” Pletcher said. “That’s why he kind of stumbled a little bit. Without the draw reins he would have wanted to have a little breeze. What we’re seeing out there gives us the same feel we were getting at Churchill. He’s on it. He’s feeling good. He’s high-energy. Eating great. All of those things.”
Pletcher said the arrival of several horses may have been the spark that made Always Dreaming act up a bit when he went to the track.
“This morning there was a little different activity - we shipped a few horses in for some of the other races - and I think he picked up on that little bit of change in atmosphere and that’s why he came out a little more fired up than he’s been the last few days,” Pletcher said.
Pletcher said Always Dreaming has come out of the Derby much like he did in three previous starts in 2017.
“He’s consistently been great all winter,” Pletcher said. “Everything we’ve done with him, he’s really, really excelled at. Every breeze. Every day he’s had a good day. Since we got to Churchill he had a little change in his personality, just in terms of how aggressive he became. We’ve seen a little bit of that here. Not quite as much as we did at Churchill. I think coming in here early helped us in that regard.”
With the additional horses from his stable at Pimlico, Pletcher said he will start taking Always Dreaming to the track at 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday. Always Dreaming is scheduled to be schooled in the paddock on Tuesday. Following the policy of his stable, Pletcher said Always Dreaming will be saddled in Pimlico’s indoor paddock prior to the Preakness.
CLASSIC EMPIRE – John C. Oxley’s Classic Empire arrived at Pimlico during the overnight hours Monday following a van ride from Churchill Downs.
The son of Pioneerof the Nile was accompanied by Black-Eyed Susan (G2) entrants Summer Luck and Corporate Queen and a few other stablemates with stakes engagements scheduled for Friday and Saturday.
“They arrived early this morning and they’ve all settled in well,” Norman Casse, son and chief assistant to trainer Mark Casse, said.
Classic Empire has exited his troubled fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby in good order, he said.
“We’re very happy with everything. He’s showing really good energy in the mornings. He’s happy; he’s healthy; with a two week gap that’s all you can really hope for,” Casse said.
“He should be, technically, sitting on his best race. We all were hoping he could win the Derby, but we knew that everything had to go right, and obviously it didn’t go right,” he added. “He ran well, regardless, and with a good trip, I think he’ll be rough to beat.”
Classic Empire was slammed and squeezed by horses leaving the starting gate in the May 6 Derby and endured a wide trip but recovered nicely to finish fourth under jockey Julien Leparoux.
Casse said Classic Empire would likely get acquainted with the Pimlico racetrack during a routine gallop scheduled for 6:30 Tuesday morning.
CLOUD COMPUTING – Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence’s Cloud Computing, who will become the first Preakness starter for trainer Chad Brown, is scheduled to leave Belmont Park Tuesday around 10 a.m. for the approximately four-hour van ride to Pimlico.
A winner of one race in three starts, Cloud Computing ran most recently in Aqueduct’s Wood Memorial (G2) April 8 and finished third. Unraced as a 2-year-old, the son of Maclean’s Music won his career debut in impressive fashion in February at Aqueduct over the inner track and subsequently finished second in the Gotham (G3).
“I think he deserves a shot,” Brown said. “Obviously, the Derby winner is really impressive and he’s going to be hard to beat. But we’re just looking to take our chance and hopefully he gets a good trip and it works out for him and he likes the surface at Pimlico.”
Brown, who is seeking his first victory in a Triple Crown race, said Cloud Computing has come to hand quickly since making his career debut Feb 11.
“He acts like he will [take a step forward],” Brown said. “He’s a lightly raced horse and that is why we skipped the Derby. We thought he needed a little bit more time. He’s come along fast. We always thought he had a lot of talent. He needs to get to that mile-and-three-sixteenths distance, which I’m confident he can. I think the six weeks between races will play into his favor.”
Javier Castellano, who won the 2006 Preakness aboard Bernardini, his first mount in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown, will ride Cloud Computing.
CONQUEST MO MONEY – Judge Lanier Racing’s New York-bred colt walked the shedrow Monday morning, the day after he arrived at Pimlico following the long van ride from Prairie Meadows racetrack in Altoona, Iowa.
Judge Lanier owners Tom and Nancy McKenna, trainer Miguel Hernandez and regular rider Jorge Carreno are scheduled to be at Pimlico Tuesday morning when the colt is scheduled to go to the track for the first time.
Conquest Mo Money was born at the Sequel New York farm near Hudson, N.Y. mainly due to convenience. His dam, Stirring, had been purchased for $80,000 in foal to Uncle Mo by Twin Creeks Racing, and was brought to Sequel New York in order to be bred to Twin Creeks’ stallion Mission Impazible. The Uncle Mo foal was dropped in New York and sold as a yearling for $180,000 to Conquest Stable at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton New York-bred sale at Saratoga.
Sixteen months later, without having made a start for his new owners, Conquest Mo Money was one of 115 horses offered in the Conquest Stable dispersal sale at Keeneland. McKenna, stunned that there was little interest in the colt, snagged him for $8,500. He is 3-2-0 in five starts this year - including a second in the Arkansas Derby (G1) - and has earned $508,900. The McKennas have paid $150,000 to supplement him to the race because he was not nominated to the Triple Crown series.
GUNNEVERA – Peacock Racing Stables’ Gunnevera jogged two miles clockwise around the Pimlico track in the company of a pony Tuesday morning.
The son of Dialed In was ridden by exercise rider Victor O’Farrell during his first experience on the Pimlico racing surface. He walked the shedrow Sunday morning after arriving from Churchill Downs Saturday.
“He jogged very good today,” O’Farrell said. “I think he’s better now than before the Derby.”
Larry Kelly, a former trainer who has signed on to assist trainer Antonio Sano during the Triple Crown campaign, was equally as pleased with Gunnevera’s physical condition in the aftermath of a troubled seventh-place finish in the May 6 Kentucky Derby.
“He is feeling really good. His energy level is really high,” said Kelly, who drove the van that transported Gunnevera to Pimlico.
Sano, who returned to South Florida to check on his divisions at Gulfstream Park and Gulfstream Park West for a few days, is expected to be at Pimlico Tuesday, when Gunnevera is scheduled to gallop.
LOOKIN AT LEE, HENCE – Trainer Steve Asmussen scheduled easy half-mile workouts for Preakness candidates Lookin At Lee and Hence Monday morning at Churchill Downs. Kentucky Derby runner-up Lookin At Lee breezed in 51 1/5 seconds and Hence was clocked in 51 3/5 while completing their final major tune-ups for the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.
The Churchill clockers caught L and N Racing’s Lookin At Lee in splits of 13 seconds for the first eighth of a mile, 25 4/5 for the half-mile and in 1:04 4/5 for the five-furlong gallop-out. Calumet Farm’s Hence, who won the Sunland Derby (G3) before finishing 11th in the Kentucky Derby, turned in splits of 13 and 25 4/5, galloping out in 1:05 shortly after the racetrack opened.
“For me, I just want them to turn off, not to be overly aggressive and to be relaxed,” Asmussen said of the easy works. “We’re fit. We just want to see them in a nice rhythm and moving well…. We feel very good about both Hence and Lookin At Lee and their physical condition and how they’re coming into the Preakness.”
The Derby duo are slated to fly out of Louisville early Tuesday afternoon on a Tex Sutton equine flight that originates in California. The horses are scheduled to arrive in Baltimore about 4 p.m.
Before the Derby, Asmussen had said that giving Hence extra time between races seemed to be the trick to a big effort, because the colt put so much into his training. Of this two-week turnaround, he said, “I didn’t think Hence ran his race at all in the Derby. Watching in the grandstand the first time by, he just was kind of jumping up and down. I believe it was from all the kickback from the off racetrack. We expected him to come out of it like he hadn’t exerted himself, and I think that’s what he’s shown. He’s a very impressive individual and he’s still training very well.”
Lookin At Lee takes everything thrown at him, sloppy kickback, breaking from the 1 hole, getting through tight openings in a 20-horse field, seemingly thriving on racing.
“He’s always been in a good rhythm,” Asmussen said. “His personality and gamesmanship are what gave us confidence in him going into the Derby. You have no control over how the other horses run, but you always feel Lookin At Lee is going to do his best.”
Of Lookin At Lee’s “dream” trip the first time he was ridden by Corey Lanerie, the Hall of Fame trainer said of the rail-hugging ride from near last in the 20-horse Derby, “It takes a horse like Lookin At Lee to get the dream trip. Some of the spots he went through are not for everybody. That’s what has us feeling so strongly about him.”
Asked who had more guts, Lanerie or Lookin At Lee, Asmussen laughed and said, “A hundred percent is 100 percent. I think those two on Derby Day were a great fit. They planned on doing all they could do. Neither one of them make any excuses. Everybody involved was very impressed with Lookin At Lee and Corey Lanerie.”
Asmussen is seeking his third Preakness victory, following Curlin in 2007 and the filly Rachel Alexandra in 2009, both going on to be Horse of the Year. He won last year’s Belmont Stakes (G1) with Arkansas Derby winner Creator, who bypassed the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby.
“The Preakness always will be extremely special to me,” Asmussen said. “It was the first classic that we won. I remember Curlin’s victory in the Preakness vividly. When they put his number up (in a photo finish with Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense), it was probably the single-most exciting instance in my racing career.”
MULTIPLIER – Illinois Derby (G3) winner Multiplier came out of his Sunday work at Keeneland in good shape and was back at the track Monday morning for a jog.
“Everything’s good,” trainer Brendan Walsh said by phone from Lexington, where the son of The Factor worked five-eighths in 1:00 4/5 the day before. “He ate up and he’s doing fine.”
Multiplier got a slow start to his career, going unraced at 2 because of “some minor issues” that Walsh said were more frustrating than serious. His first trip to the winner’s circle didn’t come until March 18 in a maiden race at Fair Grounds.
In his next start, he won the Illinois Derby (G3) at Hawthorne in 1:47.98 for the nine furlongs, the second-fastest time in the race’s history. He was privately purchased by a group headed by MGM executive Gary Barber after that race. They knew it was too late for the Kentucky Derby but hopefully the right timing for the Preakness.
“If he had broken his maiden a few weeks earlier, we probably would have run him in one of the Derby trials,” Walsh said. “He should be a fresh horse.”
Multiplier is scheduled to gallop at Keeneland Tuesday morning before vanning to Pimlico later in the day. Walsh said he expects to be in Baltimore Tuesday evening. Joel Rosario will be aboard for his fifth Preakness mount in the last six years.
SENIOR INVESTMENT – Senior Investment exited his Sunday morning work well, according to trainer Kenny McPeek, and walked on Monday morning at the conditioner’s Keeneland base. Fresh off a determined victory in the Lexington Stakes (G3) over the Lexington, Ky. course on Apr. 15, the chestnut son of Discreetly Mine worked five furlongs in 1:02 flat.
The move followed a sharp bullet-of-23 work in 1:00.40 on May 8 over the same track and distance. Owned by Fern Circle Stables of former Reebok CEO Paul Fireman, Senior Investment is expected to ship in Tuesday, according to McPeek.
TERM OF ART – Calumet Farm’s Term of Art jogged about two miles on the main track at Santa Anita Monday morning under the watchful eye of 2012 Preakness-winning trainer Doug O’Neill (I’ll Have Another).
“He’s doing great and he’s going to board a plane tomorrow heading to Baltimore,” O’Neill said. “He’ll leave the Ontario airport around 6 a.m. and he should be in there sometime Tuesday afternoon.”
Term of Art is one of two Calumet Farm contenders in the prospective Preakness field that will be drawn on Wednesday. The other is Hence, trained by Steve Asmussen.
The Southern California-based O’Neill said he was pleasantly surprised when he was contacted by a representative of Calumet to handle the conditioning of Term of Art, a $220,000 Kentucky bred son of two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow.
“It was pretty exciting when they called me last year,” O’Neill said. “There are some other guys out here – Neil Drysdale’s got some horses; Keith Desormeaux has some horses for them. What a great opportunity it is to train for a legendary name like Calumet Farm. They’re great horse people and they’re great to deal with. When you get one from them it looks the part and it acts the part.”
So far, Term of Art has something to prove in that department. He is winless in four starts at age 3 and only 2-for-9 lifetime. His third-place finish in the San Felipe (G2) behind the well-regarded Bob Baffert runner Mastery has O’Neill confident that he belongs in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.
Term of Art will race with blinkers for the first time in four starts.
“He’s won both of his races with blinkers and I think the return of blinkers moves him up a lot,” O’Neill said. New York-based Jose Ortiz will be aboard Term of Art for the first time in the Preakness.