After training Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Always Dreaming early Thursday morning, trainer Todd Pletcher told the crowd at the annual Alibi Breakfast that his colt is ready for Saturday's 142nd running of the Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course.
“The horse is doing unbelievably well in the two-week turnaround,” Pletcher said. “The way he's moving, the way he's acting, the way he's getting over the track, we feel really blessed that he's coming into the race this way. 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, but I do feel very, very good about the way he's coming into it.”
Since Always Dreaming was aggressive and sometimes hard to handle during training prior to the Kentucky Derby, Pletcher opted to send the son of Bodemeister to Baltimore three days after the Derby to relax while being prepped for the Preakness.
“I think we got exactly what we hoped we would get when we got here, a good, quiet setting,” Pletcher said. “The horse was able to settle in very well and have a relatively peaceful first week. We anticipated that things would build up this week with other horses coming in, and more people coming in. I think that initial week to settle in was beneficial. At this point, he's just sitting on go and we're hoping to keep him that way for another 48 hours.”
Always Dreaming galloped about 1 ½ miles at 5:30 a.m. Thursday and Pletcher was satisfied with what he saw.
“I thought he had a very strong, enthusiastic, contained gallop,” Pletcher said. “He's giving us a great feel and shown us everything we're hoping for, leading back in two weeks. The tank seems full. He seems eager to go. We're just trying to keep him on the ground one more day.”
Always Dreaming drew Post 4 in the field of 10 and is the 4-5 morning-line favorite. Just to his outside in the starting gate will be Classic Empire, the 2016 2-year-old champion who finished fourth in the Derby despite being knocked around in a collision a few steps out of the gate.
“I think it's an ideal spot for Classic Empire,” Pletcher said. “If I were them, I would be happy with that post. I would imagine that they are going to target us and the target is right next to you. It probably gives him a little bit of a tactical advantage from that perspective. We're just focused on hopefully breaking cleanly and smoothly and letting him run to the first turn a little bit.
“I think Johnny (Velazquez) will get a sense of how much speed the other horses are showing,” he added. “On paper, Always Dreaming, Classic Empire and Conquest Mo Money (Post 10) are the horses that have consistently shown the most speed. As you know, gates open, things change. On paper that's where it seems like most of the pace will come from.”
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