The 142nd running of the Grade 1, $1.5 million Preakness Stakes drew a field of 10, led by Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming. While the Derby winner will be going for his fifth straight victory, four other horses who finished behind Always Dreaming will try to improve their fortunes in the Preakness. Foremost among that quartet is Derby runner-up Lookin At Lee, who benefited from a dream trip along the rail when rallying from 16th to second. Derby fourth-place finisher Classic Empire won the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby prior to a rough trip in Louisville and might make amends. The other two coming back on two weeks rest are seventh-place finisher Gunnevera and 11th-place finisher Hence. New shooters include Grade 3 Illinois Derby winner Multiplier, Grade 3 Lexington Stakes winner Senior Investment and Arkansas Derby runner-up Conquest Mo Money. Cloud Computing and Term of Art complete the field.
Conquest Mo Money should have the early lead in the Preakness in the same manner State of Honor did in the Derby but is unlikely to fade to 19th (as that horse did) in a much shorter field and with very little early pace pressure. He won the first three races of his career, all around two turns and including two stakes races, before a second place finish in the Sunland Derby. Making his next start in the Arkansas Derby, Conquest Mo Money had to battle for the early lead from the start but showed a lot of physical and mental toughness to still be leading in the stretch before being passed by Classic Empire in the final stages. Having earned a career best 102 Equibase Speed Figure in the Arkansas Derby and on a pattern for significant improvement, as well as being much more fresh than the five horses that ran in the Kentucky Derby just two weeks ago, Conquest Mo Money may be able to establish a leisurely pace and go all the way to post the upset in this year's Preakness.
Always Dreaming improved to a career-best 104 figure when winning the Derby authoritatively by two and three-quarter lengths. After stalking the pacesetter for the first three quarters of a mile, Always Dreaming took over and was not threatened thereafter as he maintained his margin over runner-up Lookin At Lee in the stretch. His Derby effort was not unlike the one he put forth five weeks earlier when winning the Florida Derby with a 100 figure and certainly if Always Dreaming stays within touch of likely pacesetter Conquest Mo Money and can go by that one as easily as he did State of Honor, he can win the Preakness and go on to attempt to be the second Triple Crown winner in the last three years.
Classic Empire was treated like a pinball at the start of the Derby when bumped very hard in the opening strides. Later in the race, when asked to rally he responded nicely and was bumped again with about an eighth of a mile to go. Still, he ended up fourth and was making up ground on the third place horse as the field crossed the wire. With a better early placement in the Preakness, Classic Empire could run back to his Arkansas Derby effort which earned a 103 figure. As such, Classic Empire deserves a great deal of respect as a win contender in this race.
About the rest:
Senior Investment and Multiplier, like Conquest Mo Money, enter the Preakness as fresh horses and off stakes victories. Senior Investment earned a career-best 107 Equibase speed figure winning the Lexington Stakes in mid-April while Multiplier earned a 103 figure winning the Illinois Derby. Both horses ran about the same type of race in victory as they closed late in the stretch to get up in the nick of time. My concerns are both the likely slow pace in the Preakness, which does not benefit the running styles, as well as the fact the horses they beat in the recent victories aren't of the same quality as the horses the three main contenders have faced. Cloud Computing earned 98 figure when third in the Wood Memorial, the same figure he earned when second in the Gotham Stakes prior to that and an effort which would not threaten the main contenders here if repeated. Lookin at Lee didn't have a straw in his path when rallying for most of the last half mile along the rail and although the effort was good it may not be as good it looks on paper. He has earned 100 to 101 figures in his last three races so is not showing improvement and although he will be passing many of these in the late stages he is not a win contender in my opinion. Gunnevera earned a 107 figure winning the Fountain of Youth Stakes in March then regressed to a 90 in the Florida Derby so it was no surprise to me when he ran poorly in the Kentucky Derby and there's no sign of a better effort forthcoming. Hence earned a 97 figure winning the Sunland Derby before and 11th place finish two weeks ago and is another that seems to be going in the wrong direction. Term of Art hasn't won since the end of November and has been uncompetitive to boot since then, with his best effort being a third-place finish (100 figure) in the San Felipe Stakes in March.
Conquest Mo Money
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