Always Dreaming, Classic Empire rematch

May 18, 2017
Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming is washed after a workout at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore yesterday. The Preakness Stakes is scheduled for Saturday.

BALTIMORE (AP):The two best horses in the Preakness will be eyeball to eyeball coming out of the starting gate. There's no avoiding each other for Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and rival Classic Empire.

Always Dreaming is the early 4-5 favorite for the race Saturday at Pimlico, where he'll break from the number-four post. Classic Dreaming is the 3-1 second choice and will be right next door in the number-five hole.

"Hopefully, they both have good trips, break good and it could be interesting," said Mark Casse, who trains Classic Empire. "They could go at it right from the start."

Four of Always Dreaming's rivals are back to take him on in the second leg of the Triple Crown. Altogether, he'll face nine other horses in the 1 3/16-mile race worth $1.5 million.

Thirteen winners have started from the number-four post, most recently Curlin in 2007.

"It's fine," said Todd Pletcher, noting that Always Dreaming had the number-four post in the Florida Derby and number-five in the Kentucky Derby, two of his four victories this year. "He's usually a very good horse coming away from the gate."

Post positions were drawn yesterday on a steamy, unseasonable 92-degree day.

If Always Dreaming and jockey John Velazquez win Saturday, next up would be the Belmont Stakes on June 10. American Pharoah swept the Derby, Preakness and Belmont two years ago, ending a 37-year Triple Crown drought.

Classic Empire finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby after getting bounced around and having a rough early trip two weeks ago.

"We just want a fair shot at it," said Casse, who believes his horse didn't get to show his best effort after getting slammed coming out of the starting gate on a sloppy track that day.

Classic Empire won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last year, when he was voted two-year-old male champion. Casse insists the Preakness isn't about revenge, although he likened his horse to Rocky Balboa.

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