Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Always Dreaming provided trainer Todd Pletcher with another no-drama morning Wednesday at Pimlico Race Course. It was a routine day on the road to Saturday’s 142nd Preakness (G1): a 1 ½-mile gallop with exercise rider Nick Bush just after the track opened for training at 5:30 a.m.
Always Dreaming, who had briefly misbehaved Monday morning when he went to the track, went about his business in a professional way Wednesday.
“I thought he went great,” Pletcher said. “He’s feeling super, strong but controlled, just like we’d like to see.”
While training at Churchill Downs prior to his 2 ¾-length victory in the Derby, the son of Bodemeister was on edge and too aggressive in his training. Pletcher changed riders to the stronger Bush and added draw reins, equipment that gives the rider more control. That worked well and Always Dreaming has been a good actor at Pimlico every day but Monday, when he tried to buck Bush off his back. The activity level around the stakes barn has increased this week and Pletcher said that Always Dreaming has handled it well.
“We were out early, as soon as the track opened, but he was well behaved around the barn, on his way to the track and on his way back from the track,” Pletcher said. “I thought he was in a zone. He was focused and galloped strongly, but was under control throughout.”
Pletcher said Always Dreaming seems to be coming up to the Preakness like he did to the Derby.
“He’s been training great for a long time now and he continues to show us the same things he was showing us leading up to the Derby,” Pletcher said. “He’s full of himself. He’s energetic. He’s showing us everything we hoped he would.”
So far, Always Dreaming has not reacted to the stress of the Derby victory, like Pletcher’s first Derby winner, Super Saver, did in 2010.
“With Super Saver, my concern was the two-week turnaround was a little quick for him,” Pletcher said. “He was eating well and he was acting well, but I wasn’t seeing the same energy level from him galloping. When he was really good, he would be somewhat aggressive to gallop. The few days that we were here leading up to it, he wasn’t putting the same into his gallops that he was at Churchill and I think the two-week turnaround hurt him.
“I’m not seeing that with Always Dreaming right now,” he added. “I feel like he is ready to go.”
CLASSIC EMPIRE – Trainer Mark Casse was on hand to supervise Classic Empire’s training session at Pimlico Wednesday morning for the first time since John C. Oxley’s Arkansas Derby (G1) winner arrived at Pimlico Monday. Classic Empire jogged a mile and galloped a mile under Martin Rivera.
“I think he looks great. We thought he came into the Derby in tip-top shape and we feel the same way for the Preakness,” said Casse, whose 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and 2-year-old champion finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby following a trouble-filled journey.
Classic Empire was slammed and squeezed between horses leaving the starting gate due to a chain-reaction bumping incident to his outside. The son of Pioneerof the Nile was forced to race wide thereafter over a wet Churchill Downs track that appeared to be kinder to horses racing closer to the inside rail. Classic Empire rallied under Julien Leparoux to finish fourth.
“According to Julien, we got really hit. He said he wasn’t sure how he stayed on,” Casse said. “….I don’t know, honestly, how he finished fourth.”
Classic Empire exited the Kentucky Derby with an inflammation in an eye.
“It just seemed to make him more determined,” Casse said. “He’s fired up. He’s ready.”
CLOUD COMPUTING – Cloud Computing visited the Pimlico racing surface for the first time when he galloped once around under exercise rider Peter Roman on Wednesday, shortly after 8:30 a.m.
The colt arrived in Maryland on Tuesday afternoon around 4 p.m., following a nearly four-hour van ride from his Belmont Park home base.
Joining the Chad Brown-trained Cloud Computing at Pimlico is assistant trainer Jose Hernandez.
“He arrived here in good shape and galloped really well this morning,” said Hernandez, who noted that Cloud Computing will train earlier Thursday, around 7 a.m., to beat the hot weather that is forecasted. Cloud Computing is also scheduled to paddock school on Thursday.
Seth Klarman and Bill Lawrence's Cloud Computing is the first Preakness starter for Brown.
CONQUEST MO MONEY – Trainer Miguel Hernandez and jockey Jorge Carreno are full-time horsemen and enthusiastic cheerleaders for Conquest Mo Money, the New York-bred colt who has carried them from small tracks in the Southwest and Midwest to the Triple Crown series.
Though the colt had enough points to run in the Kentucky Derby, owner Tom McKenna opted not to face 19 others in the Run for the Roses and decided to aim for the Preakness, which will have a far smaller field.
Conquest Mo Money, runner-up in the Sunland Derby (G3) and the Arkansas Derby, spent 15 hours on a van from Iowa to Baltimore over the weekend. He walked Monday and galloped a mile under Carreno on Tuesday. Hernandez had them jog a mile and gallop a mile and a half on Wednesday morning.
“Today he felt like a champ,” Carreno, 34, said. “He was getting a hold of the track really good. The second day of training over it, he’s doing awesome.”
Carreno, a native of Mexico, has been riding in North America for 15 years at smaller tracks. He and his family now live in Anthony, Texas near El Paso, and he rides the New Mexico circuit.
“He’s a dream horse,” Carreno said. “I never thought about riding this level of horses. I like the way he went today. I call him a warrior. If he has a horse right next to him he won’t give up, he’ll give everything.”
McKenna purchased the unraced colt for $8,500 at a dispersal sale in November and turned him over to Hernandez, 51, a retired jockey who is his private trainer. Together they have three wins and two seconds in five starts and have earned $508,900 in purses with Conquest Mo Money.
“Things happen in your life. You never think you are going to have that kind of horse,” Hernandez said. “Honestly, that horse surprised me the way he started training. Every day he has improved more and more. Now, I feel like he is a super horse. I think he’s going to be good.”
The ability that he has shown on the track wasn’t readily apparent when Conquest Mo Money arrived at Hernandez’ barn.
“It took him time to show us that he could run. In the beginning he was kind of lazy,” Hernandez said. “He didn’t show anything, but when he started working, like five furlongs, he showed a different attitude and was better and better. Now you can see that the horse is totally different.”
GUNNEVERA – Peacock Racing Stables’ Gunnevera was allowed to roll during the final three-eighths of a mile of his morning gallop at Pimlico Wednesday morning.
“We went from the seven-eighths (pole) to the half-mile (pole), and he was timed in [43 3/5 seconds]. He was very sharp this morning,” said Alessandro Sano, who has been by the side of his father and Gunnevera’s trainer Antonio Sano through the Triple Crown campaign. “The horse knows there’s a big race coming Saturday.”
Gunnevera, who captured the Fountain of Youth (G2) and finished third behind Always Dreaming in the Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park, finished seventh in the Kentucky Derby following a troubled start and a wide trip.
“The horse is doing very well. The race isn’t going to be easy. Always Dreaming was the best in the Derby and there are other good horses,” Antonio Sano said.
Venezuela’s all-time leading trainer, who ventured to South Florida in 2009 to start a new life after being kidnapped twice in his homeland, is encouraged by how well Gunnevera has exited the Derby.
“No question, he looks better than he did before the Derby,” Sano said. “And he likes the track here better than he did in Kentucky.”
Mike Smith has been named to ride Gunnevera for the first time.
LOOKIN AT LEE, HENCE – Kentucky Derby runner-up Lookin At Lee and his 11th-place stablemate Hence trained at Pimlico for the first time Wednesday morning after flying from Baltimore Tuesday afternoon. Both “backtracked” to the five-eighths pole, then turned around and galloped a mile. Hence was scheduled to later school in the paddock with his stablemates running Friday.
“Just an easy gallop today, to get acquainted with the surroundings,” said Scott Blasi, trainer Steve Asmussen’s chief assistant. “There’s no racing today, so they’re going to leave the paddock open after training. It’s a different kind of paddock (inside under the grandstand) so I’m taking the Friday horses and Hence up there. Then I’ll school Hence and Lee tomorrow. I think we’re fine with Lee. He’s pretty laid back. Hence seems to run a little hotter than Lee does.”
Asked what he’s looking for in training the first time a horse goes to a new track for a race, Blasi said: “For me, not much. I just kind of want them get out there and loosen up a bit. All the work is done. They’re ready to run. Just keep them happy. It’s nice they have the grass here. You can take them out and graze after they gallop. Just get familiar with the surroundings. We’ll stand them in the gate tomorrow. Not much to do other than keep them happy and healthy.”
MULTIPLIER – Gary Barber, Adam Wachtel and George Kerr’s Multiplier had a leisurely morning walking the shedrow for first-time Preakness trainer Brendan Walsh Wednesday morning after arriving by van from Keeneland at approximately 8 p.m. Tuesday evening.
“Everything’s good,” Walsh said. “Looks like they both [Multiplier and stablemate Conquest Windycity, an entrant in Friday’s Xpressbet Pimlico Special (G3)] traveled really well. I’m going to get them out tomorrow morning.” Walsh said he also planned a trip to the paddock for schooling tomorrow.
The Illinois Derby (G3) winner comes into the Preakness as one of the lightest raced entrants in the Preakness field with only four career starts, all this year. He was unraced at 2 because of some “minor issues” according to Walsh.
“I don’t think it’s a big disadvantage for him,” Walsh said. “He’s had enough seasoning. He’s been in all kinds of situations, handles the kickback good and he handles everything fine. It’s uncanny how laid back he is. I guarantee you he’ll be walking around that paddock Saturday and you’ll think somebody’s given him a tranquilizer.”
Joel Rosario, who twice has finished second in the Preakness, will be aboard the son of The Factor for the first time on Saturday.
SENIOR INVESTMENT – Senior Investment, owned by Paul Fireman’s Fern Circle Stables, got acquainted with the Pimlico main track for the first time on Wednesday morning, going out at 5:45 a.m. He jogged a mile and then galloped a mile and a half from the three-sixteenths-pole. At 10:30 a.m., the son of Discreetly Mine schooled in the paddock with trainer Kenny McPeek carefully observing.
“He’s fine and everything went well,” McPeek said shortly after the schooling. “We’re good to go.”
The winner last out of the Lexington (G3) at Keeneland arrived at Pimlico by van at approximately 3:45 p.m. Tuesday after a flight from Kentucky.
TERM OF ART – Calumet Farm’s Term of Art made his first trip to the track at Pimlico Wednesday morning under the guidance of trainer Doug O’Neill’s assistant Sabas Rivera.
Term of Art arrived by van from BWI Airport at approximately 3:45 p.m. Tuesday after his cross-country flight from California made a brief stop in Louisville, where the son of Tiznow was joined by three other Preakness entrants.
“He was nice and quiet on the plane,” Rivera said after overseeing the colt’s morning exercise regimen. “He’s looking nice and relaxed. Everything is OK. He just jogged a little bit today and we’ll gallop him tomorrow.”
Rivera said they wouldn’t school Term of Art in the paddock or at the starting gate, largely because he’s shown no adverse behavior in his nine previous races. Term of Art was 2-for-5 last season, but is 0-for-4 as a 3-year-old.
“Usually we don’t do it [school] with him; he’s usually pretty nice and quiet in the paddock,” Rivera said.
New York-based rider Jose Ortiz, a finalist for the 2016 Eclipse Award, will be aboard Term of Art for the first time on Saturday.
O’Neill won’t arrive in Baltimore until later in the week.