November 30, 2023

Preakness Report Selections: Pace scenario should favor Always Dreaming

Ten horses are entered for Saturday’s 142nd running of the $1.5 million Preakness (G1) and if Conquest Mo Money doesn’t flash forward from his outermost post, Always Dreaming will be showing the way early. He catches a field lacking early speed and looks poised to take advantage of a moderate pace.

Always Dreaming is my pick to win the Preakness Stakes.

The Kentucky Derby winner was the fastest from the gate at Churchill Downs and when State of Honor employed suicidal tactics to make the early lead, Always Dreaming showed his tractability by easing back to sit second. The Todd Pletcher-trained colt has won on fast and slow paces and the Kentucky Derby outcome wasn’t a result of the dark bay being a mudlark; Always Dreaming captured his three previous starts by a combined 20 lengths on fast tracks.

The real test comes three weeks later at Belmont Park.

The early stages will be critical for Classic Empire, who hasn’t come close to running as fast as he did last fall. I can buy the proposition that he hasn’t had the opportunity to show his best this year, returning from a layoff in the Arkansas Derby (G1) and being severely interfered with at the start of the Kentucky Derby, but am concerned by how he hasn’t been employing the same early speed that proved so beneficial winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1).

Classic Empire needs to be able to keep Always Dreaming in his sights during the opening furlongs and it will be interesting to see whether Julien Leparoux is really hustling or if the bay colt does it on his own. A top three finish remains possible but I am not keen to take a short price given how Classic Empire’s 3-year-old season has gone so far.

Hence is my second choice. He appeared to be sitting on a regression following a big win in the Sunland Derby (G3) and once he experienced a rough start in the Kentucky Derby, the chestnut colt did little running. The Steve Asmussen pupil bounced out the no-show performance in good condition, according to reports, and will be saving ground in the early stages of the Preakness from post 3. I think Hence can offer the best finishing kick of the late runners and will be playing a straight exacta under Always Dreaming.

Multiplier also has some appeal for a minor award. He’s facing a class check, but I like the improving form (106 and 101 BRIS Late Pace numbers in the last two) and will include him underneath in the vertical exotics.

Preakness Top 4:
1. Always Dreaming
2. Hence
3. Classic Empire
4. Multiplier

Good luck in the Preakness!