2017 Preakness Preview: Always Dreaming’s Triple Crown hopes may be dashed

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I find myself looking to gain huge redemption for a disastrous Kentucky Derby in which I completely misfired with my selections as we turn to the middle leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown. Using the axiom that says ‘never keep a good man down’, I am looking to rebound with the Preakness and provide more winning selections.

The horse who carries the chance for a Triple Crown is Always Dreaming after a solid Run for the Roses.

There are a pair of predominant schools of thought as to how you approach this Preakness from a handicappers perspective. The first is, if you liked Always Dreaming before, you have to think that he can carry his form to Pimlico. The second school of thought for the contrarians like myself? There are plausible and appealing options if you think that Always Dreaming took advantage of a pronounced rail bias in the Derby or you think someone like Classic Empire can rebound after a brutal trip in the Derby with a cleaner trip in the Preakness.

Below is my horse-by-horse preview of the 2017 Preakness Stakes. I am a man on a mission to rebound.

RACE 13 Preakness S. (Grade I) POST TIME – 6:48 PM
PP (RACE 13)
Pimlico STAKES
Purse $1,500,000. For Three-Year-Olds. $15,000 to pass the entry box, starters to pay $15,000 additional. Supplemental nominations may be made in accordance with the rules, upon payment of $150,000, 60% of the purse to the winner, 20% to second, 11% to third, 6% to fourthand 3% to fifth. Weight 126 pounds for Colts and Geldings, 121 pounds for Fillies. A replica of the Woodlawn Vase will be presented to the winning owner to remain his or her personal property. One And Three Sixteenth Miles.
P# PP Horse  Virtual
A/S Med Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 Multiplier (KY) 3/C L J Rosario 126 B P Walsh 30/1
2 Cloud Computing (KY) 3/C L J Castellano 126 C C Brown 12/1
3 Hence (KY) 3/C L F Geroux 126 S M Asmussen 20/1
4 Always Dreaming (KY) 3/C L J R Velazquez 126 T A Pletcher 4/5
5 Classic Empire (KY) 3/C L J R Leparoux 126 M E Casse 3/1
6 Gunnevera (KY) 3/C L M E Smith 126 A Sano 15/1
7 Term of Art (KY) 3/C L J L Ortiz 126 D F O’Neill 30/1
8 Senior Investment (KY) 3/C L C Hill 126 K G McPeek 30/1
9 Lookin At Lee (KY) 3/C L C J Lanerie 126 S M Asmussen 10/1
10 Conquest Mo Money (NY) 3/C L J Carreno 126 M L Hernandez 15/1
Owners: 1 – Gary Barber, Wachtel Stable & George J. Kerr; 2 – Klaravich Stables, Inc. & William Lawrence; 3 – Calumet Farm; 4 – MeB Racing, Brooklyn Boyz, Teresa Viola, St Elias, Siena Farm & West Point; 5 – John C. Oxley; 6 – Peacock Racing Stables, LLC; 7 – Calumet Farm; 8 – Fern Circle Stables; 9 – L and N Racing LLC; 10 – Judge Lanier Racing
Breeders: 1 – Mark Stansell; 2 – Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings, Inc &Stretch Run Ventures, LLC; 3 – Calumet Farm; 4 – Santa Rosa Partners; 5 – Steven Nicholson & Brandi Nicholson; 6 – Brandywine Farm & Stephen Upchurch; 7 – Whisper Hill Farm, LLC; 8 – Dixiana Farms LLC; 9 – Ray Hanson; 10 – Twin Creeks Farm
Pedigrees (Sire – Dam, by Dam Sire): 1 – The Factor – Trippi Street , by Trippi ; 2 – Maclean’s Music – Quick Temper , by A.P. Indy ; 3 – Street Boss Floating Island , by A.P. Indy ; 4 – Bodemeister – Above Perfection , by In Excess (IRE) ; 5 – Pioneerof the Nile – Sambuca Classica , by Cat Thief ; 6 –Dialed In – Unbridled Rage , by Unbridled ; 7 – Tiznow – Miles of Style , by Storm Cat ; 8 – Discreetly Mine – Plaid , by Deputy Commander ; 9 – Lookin At Lucky – Langara Lass , by Langfuhr ; 10 – Uncle Mo – Stirring , by Seeking the Gold ;
 Sire of Multiplier standing at Lane’s End
Equipment Changes: 7 – Term of Art – Blinkers On
Horse Analysis:

1-Multiplier was a resolute winner of the Illinois Derby in his last start, but that race has not been relevant as far as providing a serious Triple Crown contender. He has the right kind of running style but in looking at his form I really don’t see him being a major factor. At best maybe he could clunk up for a superfecta finish but that seems to be stretching things so I will toss him out.

2-Cloud Computing is one of the interesting new shooters, and the first thing you have to notice is that Javier Castellano takes the mount instead of staying on Gunnevera. This move draws my attention because Castellano is a four-time Eclipse Award winning rider who voluntarily took himself off Gunnevera to ride this guy. Looking at Cloud Computing as far as his form, he shows two board finishes in the Gotham and the Wood but the horses who beat him did not run well in the Derby so my inclination is to toss him out. However, I am not quite sure I can despite his three lifetime starts. This jock-trainer combo of Castellano and Chad Brown is very dangerous, and this guy has comparable speed figures to suggest a good race can happen. I feel like he can be on the board with a move forward.

3-Hence was my long shot special in the Derby two weeks ago and had a terrible trip in which he lost all chance after the start. Theoretically, he can rebound. You can make the argument that he bounced off his prior effort in the Sunland Derby and I won’t fault you for buying into that line of thinking. Or you can take the ideology that he could be regressing. I am not quite sure where I stand with him. He could pop up and split any exacta combo. This is a tough call for me.

4-Always Dreaming sure made me look like a fool as he splashed home to a stout win in the Derby. I was not on his bandwagon that day and I may not be on him here. Let me explain why I could pick against him again. Look at his trainer Todd Pletcher’s career stats with horses making quick turnarounds. The numbers don’t lie: Pletcher horses struggle. This terrific trainer has started eight horses in the Preakness and only has one top three result, a third place finish, to show for it. Am I suggesting that Always Dreaming is a throw out? Stay tuned.

5-Classic Empire had a nightmare trip at the Derby as looked like a busted up version of Rocky Balboa post race with his right eye swollen nearly shut. Everything that could go wrong did, and their connections are hopeful for a much cleaner trip here. Breaking next to Always Dreaming surely helps his chances at Pimlico as his rider Julien Leparoux will track the favorite and try to attack when the time comes. I think on merit, Classic Empire is good enough but you wonder what a trip like the Derby disaster does to him. If he shows no after effects, he has a huge chance to reverse the Derby result. Again, I believe he is good enough to win here with a clean trip but one thing I will be looking for is how he behaves in the post parade. Definitely a use in the exotics but is he my pick to win?

6-Gunnevera, with what was a faster than expected pace in the Derby, was still never a real factor. With Castellano bailing off and Mike Smith taking the mount, you think it could help his chances for a fresh start. Now let me say this, Mike Smith is one of the best riders of all time but the circumstances and the pace flow suggests to me I should not be bullish on Gunnevera this time. He may be going in horse racing terms ‘over the top’, declining in his form cycle. I will not use him in the Preakness.

7-Term of Art does not figure to contend as his figures do not measure up to the expected main contenders. He is one of the easiest throw outs so let us move on.

8-Senior Investment was a surprise winner in the Lexington at Keeneland in his last outing. However, he does not look the part of a contender in this Preakness as his running style precludes him from making any noise.

9-Lookin at Lee, when you talk about dream trips, used the rail bias and faster than expected pace to finish second at Churchill Downs. He was no real threat to Always Dreaming but he sure ran well, didn’t he? Assessing his chances in the Preakness, my first thought was that his running style won’t allow him to flourish like he did two weeks back. Also consider horses like this have skipped the Preakness to await the Belmont but his connections threw a curve ball by entering him here. I don’t foresee a breakneck pace but he could finish well again so he’s one I am considering for my exacta box.

10-Conquest Mo Money looked more appealing before the draw. I really felt he could contend but breaking from the outside post kind of scares me. He did run a game second to Classic Empire in the Arkansas Derby, and his connections have supplemented $150,000 for him to run here. I think he could be the pace setter but to me the break is absolutely pivotal for him to have any chance. If he misses it, he gets nothing. If he gets clear, he has a chance to hang in for the exotics. My first gut is to use him but will I?

My Selections

1-Classic Empire-Just feel like with a clean trip, he absolutely can win. I will tab him to deny Always Dreaming in what should be a competitive race.

2-Cloud Computing-To me this new face is very much capable and I know the horses that beat him in his last pair did not fire back. The jock/trainer combo is just too dangerous to ignore.

3-Always Dreaming-If my calculations are right, he could be in line for a slight regression. With the composition of this field, I think he is very much beatable if so. Plus, I did not favor him in the Derby so why take him now?

4-Conquest Mo Money-I just could not bring myself to eliminate him but he has to get a clean break. I can see him giving another spirited effort so he is not without a chance to surprise.

In closing, weather wise it should be a great day at Pimlico with clear skies and temperatures reaching the low to mid 70’s. Of course all eyes will be on Always Dreaming as he looks to keep hopes alive for a Triple Crown. I will be joining Ken Trahan, Ed Daniels and Rick Gaille this Saturday on the Three Tailgaters Show on WGSO 990 AM in New Orleans to talk Preakness. I sure hope I nail this exacta after such a disappointing Derby.

I will have a review of the Preakness and an early look ahead to the Belmont next week so until then as always may your winners be plentiful and your wallets be fat.

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George Pepis

George Pepis

Horse Racing Analyst

George Pepis provides daily racing analysis during each Fair Grounds racing season. He also shares commentary and selections for major stakes events and prep races around the country. In the past, George has hosted sports talk programming on WGSO 990am in New Orleans. He has served as both play-by-play and color analyst on Louisiana high school football radio and internet broadcasts.

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