May 27, 2017

Pletcher has favorite but no Preakness success yet

19 May 2017, 06:56 | Joan Schultz

Patrick Smith Getty Images

Patrick Smith  Getty Images

There once was a time when Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas would feel absolutely terrible about not having a horse in the Preakness.

Three vans transporting five candidates for Saturday's 2017 Preakness Stakes (G1) arrived at Pimlico Race Course within minutes of each other Tuesday afternoon.

Make a note of this: Pletcher's Preakness record is 0-8, with only a single third-place finish.

The connections of Kentucky Derby champion Always Dreaming and chief rival Classic Empire are treating Saturday's 10-horse Preakness Stakes like a match-race shootout.

"I can relish that and enjoy that, too", Lukas said. Always Dreaming will try to become the 36 on Saturday. He was clobbered at the start, lost position early while being shuffled back, rallied wide, and emerged from the race with minor cuts on his legs and a swollen right eye. "I was banging and tipping over chairs. But you never know".

Pletcher worked under Lukas for well over half a decade before going out on his own in the winter of 1995. If a horse paid $10, we thought we were rich.

The odds say Classic Empire is second best, just like they did at the Derby.

Keep it at Pimlico or move it to Laurel, Maryland's premier racing facility or turn the Triple Crown upside down by putting the second leg in Los Angeles, Chicago or Miami (Yes, PLEASE!).

Pletcher trains him, and on paper it's hard to make a case against Derby victor Always Dreaming, the 4-5 morning-line favorite who may go off at an even shorter price.

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"I think when you're the Derby victor it's important to get there and get settled in because there's so much more hoopla around you and so much more action and with him coming into the Derby, he was pretty fired up", Birkenhauer says.

"Todd has an ability to see things in horses that nobody sees - how to change on the fly", Anthony Bonomo said.

One of the new horses Always Dreaming will face that Goldberg likes?

Most of the people in Birkenhauer's position are men, and much older than the 29-year-old. American Pharoah swept the Derby, Preakness and Belmont two years ago, ending a 37-year Triple Crown drought. He remains the horse to beat.

"My 2-years-old are impressing me", he said.

Hence, Asmussen said, is coming back in the Preakness because he "didn't run his race or exert a lot of effort", owing to an off track over which he never appeared comfortable.

Lukas and Pletcher remain close friends and won't hesitate to call upon one another for advice. Where Pletcher's previous Derby winner's career peaked on the first Saturday in May, his victor this year seems to be getting better with every start and has potential to develop into an elite 3-year-old.

"I don't think he could have won the Louisiana Derby, but he had an inside trip and I've learned to keep him clear", McPeek said. I promise it will still be a thing. Trainer Mark Casse remains optimistic about his Classic Empire's chances despite Classic Empire suffering a swollen right eye after the race at Churchill Downs.

Lukas recalls winning a Preakness and then driving to a fast-food joint in Baltimore, where he ate chicken while sitting alone. Term of Art, meanwhile, has the longest odds to win the Preakness at 50/1.

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