Cloud Computing entered the Preakness Stakes as an unknown quantity. The athletic colt flashed fine potential in his first two starts on Aqueduct’s inner track, capturing his career debut at 6-furlongs in mid-February and recording a commendable second in the 1 1/16-mile Gotham (G3) after chasing a hot pace, but supporters needed to project significant improvement after a well-beaten third behind Irish War Cry and Battalion Runner in the April 8 Wood Memorial (G2).
It turned out the Gotham effort led to a regression and Chad Brown had Cloud Computing ready for a big step forward in his fourth career start. I’m still amazed by how he courageously ran down Classic Empire, who appeared home free in the Pimlico stretch.
Much has been made about how well Classic Empire ran in defeat, with Vance Hanson explaining why the narrow runner-up was arguably best in the Preakness and Kellie Reilly tabbing him as pro-tem division leader. I won’t dismiss either point-of-view – Classic Empire has clearly turned things around after coming untracked earlier this year and the Mark Casse-trainee will be looking to assert his superiority in the coming months.
I liked the aggressive ride from Julien Leparoux, who took it to Always Dreaming from the start and assumed a clear lead after the Kentucky Derby winner began to retreat on the far turn. He rode to win aboard Classic Empire and received some unfair criticism afterward.
But I do question which horse will have more to offer going forward considering Classic Empire was winning graded stakes last summer and Cloud Computing didn’t record a 5-furlong workout until January 20. The Preakness winner received a career-best 103 BRIS Speed Rating and his numbers are certainly eligible to keep rising given the early stage of his development.
Classic Empire hasn’t been able to match the 108 Speed Rating he netted winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last November. He remains a major player for the Belmont Stakes and other important 3-year-old stakes races but as Cloud Computing showed erasing a clear lead in the Preakness stretch, the division is still up for grabs.
Well-known types like Always Dreaming, Irish War Cry and McCraken remain in the equation but I have little confidence in their chances this summer/fall. But I won’t be surprised to see another up-and-coming sophomore make a serious impact like Cloud Computing did in the Preakness.
The Brown barn has an exciting prospect in Timeline, who improved to 3-for-3 with a recent win in the Peter Pan (G2). And I was impressed by Graham Motion-trained No Mo Dough, who put his dynamic late kick on display while making his stakes debut in the Sir Barton on the Preakness undercard. His recent BRIS Speed Ratings are misleading – the closer has no impact upon slow paces up front – and No Mo Dough’s Late Pace numbers (115-108 last two starts) are a better indication of his potential in my view.
I look forward to seeing how the division shakes out over the next six months.
Brisnet.com has free PPs for the prospective Belmont Stakes field