By Claire Novak
The rematch is on. Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) winner Always Dreaming, assigned post 4 and installed as the 4-5 morning-line favorite for the May 20 Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course, will break alongside champion Classic Empire, a rival who was obliterated from contention at the Derby start two weeks ago in Louisville.
Always Dreaming won the Xpressbet Florida Derby (G1) from post 4 before capturing the Kentucky Derby from post 5 as part of a four-race win streak for trainer Todd Pletcher and a large partnership led by Brooklyn Boyz and St. Elias Racing. The son of Bodemeister has been training as forwardly into the second leg of the Triple Crown as he was before the first.
John Oxley's Classic Empire, the Pioneerof the Nile colt who capped his Eclipse Award-winning juvenile campaign with a Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) victory from post 5 and was assigned the same spot for the 1 3/16-mile Preakness, will seek redemption as the 3-1 second choice in the Preakness. A bumper-car break from post 14—beside the gap left next to the auxilary gate—sent him reeling on the first Saturday in May.
"I think it's nice for the fans," Casse said of favorites drawing next to each other. "Hopefully they both have a great trip and break good. It could be interesting. They may go at it right from the start. Classic Empire is fast. All you have to do is look at the Breeders' Cup. I think people forget about how fast he is.
"At least there's no 14, so we're happy about that. We want to just have a good break and see what happens. Always Dreaming is a very good horse, and we just want a fair shot at him."
For Always Dreaming, Pletcher said a gate outside Judge Lanier Racing's speed horse Conquest Mo Money, who drew the far outside post, would have been ideal. But he said the Kentucky Derby winner's alert manner at the break should serve him well in the field of 10.
"He's generally a very good horse away from the gate, and we'll just try to come away, establish some position, and see what some other horses are doing," Pletcher said. "He's training forwardly, agressively, (and) managably. Everything we'd like to see.
"If you were hand-selecting wherever you wanted to draw, maybe you wanted to be outside of Conquest Mo Money, but as you know, in a lot of races, things change as soon as the gates open. We'll just let him run his race."
Conquest Mo Money's trainer, Miguel Hernandez, said his contender might not be as forwardly placed as people imagine. The runner-up in the Arkansas Derby (G1) and Sunland Derby (G3), the son of Uncle Mo launched his career by winning three straight, topped by a Mine That Bird Derby score, and has never been worse than second despite stepping up significantly in class last time out.
"I like the position," Hernandez said. "The last few times he got an outside position. It doesn't matter to him a lot. Maybe he's going to be three or four wide, but not more than that. He doesn't need the lead. He can take back and run."
"I think Conquest Mo Money will come from the outside and come down," Casse said. "Always Dreaming will probably be running on. If our horse breaks really well, if he broke running, he could be on the lead."
Steve Asmussen-trained Derby runner-up Lookin At Lee drew post 9 at odds of 10-1, while fellow Asmussen trainee Hence was installed in post 3 at 20-1 odds off an 11th in the Derby.
"I was texting Steve during the draw and our two horses came out first and he texted me back 'Perfect,'" assistant trainer Scott Blasi said. "I think it's a good draw for both of our horses, especially since it looks like there is some speed in the middle and on the outside. Our horses aren't going to be forwardly placed anyway."
Another exiting the Derby, where he ran seventh, is Peacock Racing's Gunnevera, who drew post 6 and is 15-1 on the morning line. Completing the lineup at odds of 30-1 are Illinois Derby (G3) winner Multiplier, Stonestreet Lexington Stakes (G3) winner Senior Investment, and Term of Art, winner of an off-the-turf edition of the Cecil B. DeMille Stakes (G3).
The $1.5 million Preakness, set for its 142nd running as race 13 on a 14-race card, is set for 6:48 p.m. ET Saturday in Baltimore, and will be broadcast by NBC.
Preakness Stakes May 6, 2017 6:48 PM EDT
Post Horse Jockey Trainer Odds
1 Multiplier Joel Rosario Brendan Walsh 30-1
2 Cloud Computing Javier Castellano Chad Brown 12-1
3 Hence Florent Geroux Steve Asmussen 20-1
4 Always Dreaming John Velazquez Todd Pletcher 4-5
5 Classic Empire Julian Leparoux Mark Casse 3-1
6 Gunnevera Mike Smith Antonio Sano 15-1
7 Term of Art Jose Ortiz Doug O'Neill 30-1
8 Senior Investment Channing Hill Ken McPeek 30-1
9 Lookin At Lee Corey Lanerie Steve Asmussen 10-1
10 Conquest Mo Money Jorge Carreno Miguel Hernandez 15-1