Lookin At Lee eyes Preakness glory after strong run in Derby

Patrick Smith  Getty Images

Patrick Smith Getty Images

The only reason Pletcher is at historic but crumbling Pimlico Race Course is because he has the Kentucky Derby victor. When a media member mentioned that this would be Empire's third race in five weeks - Arkansas Derby on April 15, Kentucky Derby on May 6 and Preakness on May 20 - Casse admitted that might be problem for a normal horse. Classic Empire received a Gate 5 starting spot in the post position draw for the 10-horse field on Wednesday afternoon.

Michael Veitch writes about horse racing Wednesdays in The Saratogian.

Pletcher trains him, and on paper it's hard to make a case against Derby victor Always Dreaming, the 4-5 morning-line favorite who may go off at an even shorter price.

Pletcher is not Always Dreaming's only trainer.

This is just Pletcher's his ninth runner and he has never won the Preakness. "To have a New York-based horse have a chance at the Triple Crown, well that would be incredible!" He broke his maiden in December at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, and two months later he won an allowance race at Oaklawn before jumping to the Louisiana Derby, where he was off the board.

The Preakness' position two weeks after the Derby is too soon for Pletcher.

In most South American countries, including Venezuela, horses are ridden without a saddle during their morning gallops. Why? Of these, Impeachment closed from last to finish third and Trippi pressed the pace before retiring to wind up 11th.

Since 1983, the Preakness victor has emerged from the Derby in 30 of 33 runnings.

He's wolfing down crab cakes at every opportunity and offering up local restaurant tips to anyone who asks. Even with a good trip, it will be tough to make up almost nine lengths, and at 3-1, he'll be no bargain. The odds favor Pletcher in spite of his poor record in short turnarounds, as ten of the last twenty Derby winners went on to also win the second leg of the crown.

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As the chief operating officer of West Point Thoroughbreds in Saratoga Springs, Bellhouse is part of the team that owns the 3-year-old racehorse, who will be seeking a win to secure the second leg toward Triple Crown glory. Always Dreaming's jockey, John Velazquez, is also without a Preakness crown, having won the Derby and Belmont twice each. Eight of the past 10 Derby winners were first or second in the Preakness, with four winning. He didn't with Always Dreaming.

"They both had really easy works", Asmussen said.

"His personality and gamesmanship are what gave us confidence in him going into the Derby", trainer Steve Asmussen said. We're not overthinking it. He just galloped once around the track. Now, it wasn't that bad when Always Dreaming went to the track, because he went to the track at 5:30 this morning.

For one thing, it won't be as crowded in the starting gate.

"I've got a streak going of six consecutive days eating crab cakes", he said with a big grin. "He's quiet in the stall". Always Dreaming's just better than his Preakness rivals for now. "He's training forwardly, aggressively, manageably - everything we would like to see". "He was 4 in the Florida Derby and 5 in the Kentucky Derby".

If the colt is showing an eagerness to compete again, so is Pletcher. "You wait 37 years for the biggest race of your life, and it's over in 10 seconds", trainer Mark Casse said. Although, I'm fairly confident connections wouldn't race him if he's not at 100 percent, but it may be something to watch out for.

Despite overseeing a stable that runs in races nationwide, Pletcher is single-minded in his approach with each horse in his barn.

When there were only two post positions left to be announced - the No. 5 and No. 10 - Conquest Mo Money co-owner Sandy McKenna said, "I hope we're on the outside".

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