November 30, 2023

Always Dreaming ‘well-behaved’ before Preakness

Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Always Dreaming jogs in preparation for the Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Racecourse (c) Jamie Newell/

Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Always Dreaming jogged around Pimlico’s main track on Black-Eyed Susan Friday, just one day before tackling the second jewel of the Triple Crown in the 142nd running of the Preakness Stakes (G1).

“He had a good, strong gallop yesterday. We just wanted to go easy today,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “It worked out really well. He was well-behaved, nice and quiet, and jogged around there enthusiastically. That’s it. He’ll just walk tomorrow morning and all of the preparations are done.”

Always Dreaming will try to give both Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez their first wins in the Preakness Stakes.

“I think he’s pretty special,” Pletcher said. “We’re going to find out more, but when you look at what he has done this year, winning his first couple of races by open lengths, winning the Florida Derby (G1) and the Kentucky Derby by the margins he did, it’s pretty exceptional. It’s pretty rare that you see that.”

The dark bay son of Bodemeister began his career with trainer Dominick Schettino, and was close in two starts before being transferred to Pletcher’s shedrow last September. Following a break at Jim Crupi’s Florida farm, Always Dreaming kicked off his sophomore campaign for his new conditioner with a maiden win on January 25 and has yet to lose for the barn in four starts.

“We got a very, very favorable impression of him from the very beginning when we first started breezing him,” Pletcher said. “We started laying out plans to hopefully get there. You’ve got to see him come along and continue to develop and continue to improve, but he impressed us every single time we did something with him this winter and spring. He just kept stepping up and getting better and better, but was so consistent. All of his works were really strong. We were pretty enthusiastic early on.”

Champion Classic Empire continued to make trainer Mark Casse happy, jogging about seven furlongs and galloping a mile on Friday.

“He was on the bit this morning,” Casse said. “He was feeling good.”

Classic Empire, who rallied for fourth in the Kentucky Derby after a troubled trip, was reluctant to train in the mornings earlier this year, but seems to have gotten over that issue just in time for the Preakness.

“You know what I like about him is he’s eager to go to the track. This winter when we were having some issues, he kind of didn’t want to go to the track. Now he’s eager to go there and eager to train,” Casse said. “He’s going to be real happy when it cools off, too. That will really get him feeling well. We’re anxious for a little cooler weather. It was pretty hot.

“Tomorrow he’ll just walk, and just chill.”

Trainer Steve Asmussen watched Friday as his pair of Preakness runners, Lookin at Lee and Hence, galloped a little over a mile.

“I’m very pleased with how they’re traveling and they’re acting,” Asmussen said. “I thought both of them came out of the Derby in very good physical shape. I expect big performances from them. But as we saw in the Derby, what other horses do is out of your control. Hoping for a good trip for both of them.”

Lookin at Lee finished second in the Kentucky Derby and was third behind Classic Empire in the Arkansas Derby (G1) in his past two starts.

“The consistency that Lookin at Lee shows us through his travels as a two-year-old as well into this year is what makes me an admirer of his. He just keeps showing up. You have a lot of faith that he’ll do the best he can, no matter how the race unfolds,” Asmussen said.

Hence earned his shot at Kentucky Derby glory with a 3 3/4-length victory in the Sunland Park Derby (G3) one race prior, but could no better than 11th in the Run for the Roses.

“Hence has shown brilliance, but he has lacked some consistency,” Asmussen noted. “But with his ability, we’re hoping that tomorrow in the Preakness is one of his great days.”

Grade 3 victor Term of Art galloped 1 1/4 miles on Friday, and assistant trainer Sabas Rivera was full of praise for the Tiznow colt.

“He was even better than yesterday,” Rivera said. “We’ll give him a jog tomorrow morning around 6 a.m.; he likes it here a lot.”

Term of Art joins Lookin at Lee as one of only two Preakness entrants without a victory as a sophomore. The Doug O’Neill trainee will be getting blinkers added in an effort to help his chances on Saturday.

“I know my horse doesn’t have a lot of gate speed, so we’ll be coming off the pace,” O’Neill said. “There should be enough speed, which should help us.”