Always Dreaming ready for Preakness
Always Dreaming has run away from the competition in four consecutive victories this year, winning by a combined 23-1/4 lengths.
The dark bay colt was never challenged in winning the Kentucky Derby by 2-3/4 lengths on a sloppy track at Churchill Downs.
Whether he does it again in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness at Pimlico today depends on a good trip, the tactics by his nine rivals and a little luck. Always Dreaming is the early 4-5 favourite under jockey John Velazquez.
"Always Dreaming hasn't had many obstacles to face," said Corey Lanerie, who will ride Derby runner-up Lookin At Lee. "Maybe he's that good that he won't encounter trouble. But you never know."
After three consecutive days of 90-plus-degree heat, the forecast calls for a high of 68 and cloudy skies today when the race goes off about 5:48 p.m. (Ja time)
Always Dreaming is a victory away from setting up a bid for the Triple Crown. Two years ago, American Pharoah became the first horse to sweep the Derby, Preakness and Belmont in 37 years.
"I'm someone who has been in a lot of races and lost a lot of races, so I know you don't want to be overconfident," trainer Todd Pletcher said, "but I do feel very, very good about the way he's coming into it."
In the Preakness, Always Dreaming will break from the No. 4 post, a spot that has produced 13 winners but none since Curlin in 2007. One spot over on his outside will be Classic Empire, last year's 2-year-old champion who finished fourth in the Derby after getting knocked around coming out of the starting gate.
"If anything, I have a greater respect for Always Dreaming," said Mark Casse, who trains Classic Empire. "I think he's going to be tougher to beat than I thought he would be going into the Derby."
As the Derby champ, Always Dreaming will have a bullseye on his back in a smaller field going a shorter distance than two weeks ago.
"I would imagine that they are going to target us and the target is right next to you," Pletcher said. "We're just focused on hopefully breaking cleanly and smoothly and letting him run to the first turn a little bit."