October 19, 2021

Always Dreaming ‘strong but controlled’ ahead of Preakness

Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming continued his preparations for the May 20 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico (c) Jon Kral/Maryland Jockey Club

Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Always Dreaming made it two days in a row without displaying his usual headstrong antics. After an eventful ride for exercise rider Nick Bush on Monday, the Todd Pletcher trainee stayed relatively calm on Tuesday and again Wednesday as he readies for Saturday’s Preakness Stakes (G1).

The dark bay colt galloped 1 1/2 miles around Pimlico on Wednesday, taking to the track just after it opened for training at 5:30 a.m. (ET). Keeping his head low the entire time, Always Dreaming showed a bit of spirit when hopping while crossing in front of the wire, but nothing like his exploits on Monday.

“I thought he went great,” Pletcher said. “He’s feeling super, strong but controlled, just like we’d like to see.

“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. I thought he was in a zone. He was focused and galloped strongly, but was under control throughout.”

Pletcher is pleased with the way Always Dreaming is training up to the second jewel of the Triple Crown, comparing it to his preparation for the Kentucky 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.

“I feel like he is ready to go.”

Champion Classic Empire, who finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby, jogged and galloped under Martin Rivera on Wednesday in his first foray over Pimlico’s track since arriving at Old Hilltop two days earlier.

“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,” trainer Mark Casse said.

The Pioneerof the Nile colt didn’t have the best of trips in the Kentucky Derby, being slammed and squeezed between rivals at the start and forced to run wide under jockey Julien Leparoux.

“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 Run for the Roses with an inflamed eye, possibly due to a mud clod hitting him in the face.

“It just seemed to make him more determined,” Casse said. “He’s fired up. He’s ready.”

Classic Empire wasn’t the only newcomer visiting the track on Wednesday.

Kentucky Derby runner-up Lookin at Lee and stablemate Hence, 11th in the Run for the Roses, flew into Baltimore on Tuesday and took a spin around Pimlico Wednesday morning.

The Steve Asmussen-trained duo each “backtracked” to the five-eighths pole, turned around and galloped a mile. Hence also had a paddock schooling session.

“Just an easy gallop today, to get acquainted with the surroundings,” assistant trainer Scott Blasi said. “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.

“They’re ready to run,” Blasi added. “Not much to do other than keep them happy and healthy.”

Lexington Stakes (G3) scorer Senior Investment acquainted himself with the track around 5:45 a.m., jogging a mile and galloping 1 1/2 miles from the three-sixteenths pole. The Kenny McPeek trainee, who arrived at Pimlico Tuesday afternoon after a flight from Kentucky, also schooled in the paddock later in the morning.

“He’s fine and everything went well,” McPeek said. “We’re good to go.”

Multiple Grade 2 hero Gunnevera lit up the track during his Wednesday morning gallop at Pimlico.

“We went from the seven-eighths (pole) to the half-mile (pole), and he was timed in (:43 3/5). 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.”

Trainer Antonio Sano with Preakness Stakes (G1) contender Gunnevera at Pimlico (c) Jon Kral/Maryland Jockey Club

Gunnevera rallied for seventh in the Kentucky Derby after being involved in the trouble at the start and a wide trip.

“The horse is doing very well,” Antonio Sano said. ““No question, he looks better than he did before the Derby. And he likes the track here better than he did in Kentucky.

“The race isn’t going to be easy,” he added. “Always Dreaming was the best in the Derby and there are other good horses.”

Grade 1-placed dual stakes winner Conquest Mo Money jogged a mile and galloped 1 1/2 miles under regular jockey Jorge Carreno on Wednesday for trainer Miguel Hernandez. The dark bay son of Maclean’s Music had enough points to make the Kentucky Derby field, but his connections bypassed the Run for the Roses in favor of the Preakness.

“Today he felt like a champ,” Carreno said. “He was getting a hold of the track really good. The second day of training over it, he’s doing awesome.

“He’s a dream horse,” added Carreno, who rides the New Mexico circuit. “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.”

“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.”