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Always Dreaming leads 2017 Preakness favorites

LAS VEGAS – Horse racing’s second jewel of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes, takes place at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore Saturday. Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming is the big favorite after a dominating run through the muck at Churchill Downs.

If you’re new to horse racing or just brushing up on the basics, here’s the “Squares guide to the Preakness Stakes” from sister site Covers.com:

Favorites

Always Dreaming (John Velazquez, 4-5): He’s still undefeated at three years old and that’s quite the feat, although his front-running style definitely worked to his advantage in the Derby. Pletcher is a trainer that likes giving horses adequate rest between races. He’s started 48 Kentucky Derby horses but only ran three back in the Preakness. There’s no denying Pletcher has struggled at Pimlico. Pletcher has lost 17 straight on dirt when racing within 14 days of his last start. Perhaps those statistics are enough to warrant a play against the short priced favorite.

Classic Empire (Julien Leparoux, 3-1): He broke very poorly in the Kentucky Derby and lost the race right from the very beginning. He prefers being closer to the pace and he will have every opportunity to do so racing over a (hopefully) fast track, and versus a much smaller field in the Preakness Stakes. While his last effort was pretty poor based on what we’ve seen this colt capable of doing, it’s a definite positive sign to see that he made up ground and closed for third. Pay attention to the status of his right eye. He suffered an eye abrasion and was unable to open it the following day in the Derby. Although, I’m fairly confident connections wouldn’t race him if he’s not at 100 percent, but it may be something to watch out for.

Lookin At Lee (Corey Lanerie, 10-1): He surprised many rallying up the rail to finish a very game second to the eventual winner Always Dreaming in the Kentucky Derby. He’s a colt that has been improving and the effort he puts forth in races are very apparent and definitely a positive trait to see out of young horses. He’s one of a few in the Derby that showed a particular affinity for the off track. With a faster pace upfront, would he have been able to track down Always Dreaming? Not likely, but it’s possible. He prefers racing longer where there’s a little bit more ground traveled. You may want to wait until the Belmont before backing this colt.

YouTube link to Preakness video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adwspnn_5Gs

Live long shots

Cloud Computing (Javier Castellano, 12-1): He’s another lightly raced colt which may be sitting on a big effort. The Preakness has historically been favorable to front-running horses and speed, so he should warrant some consideration. He may work out the perfect stalking trip and save ground racing behind front runners Conquest Mo Money and Always Dreaming. Jockey wise, he receives a big upgrade to Castellano who is choosing to ride him over his Derby mount of Gunnevera.

Hence (Florent Geroux, 20-1): I’ll give him a pass for not taking well to the off track at Churchill Downs. He never seemed comfortable and not many horses were making up ground late. He’s capable of a bounce-back effort Saturday. He did have a nice rebounding effort after the disappointing seventh in the Southwest Stakes, coming back to win the Sunland Derby a little over a month later. Trainer wise, it doesn’t get much better than Steve Asmussen, who has won the Preakness Stakes with the likes of Curlin in 2007 and super filly Rachel Alexandra in 2009.

Multiplier (Joel Rosario, 30-1): He’s one of few entering fresh after skipping the Kentucky Derby. That’s partly due to how long it took this horse to break his Maiden and his relative inexperience. His biggest win was in the G3 Illinois Derby in a time of 1:47.98 – the second fastest in the race’s history. Pedigree wise, his sire The Factor is known for his sprinting talent, but this colt looks to have stamina on the grandam side, so I feel pretty confident in saying distance will likely not be an issue. He takes a huge jump up in class today but being lightly raced could work to his advantage.

Notes to know

  • Unlike the Kentucky Derby, which was run in the rain with sloppy track conditions, the Preakness Stakes weather report is calling for a dry track with temperatures in the mid-70s for Baltimore Saturday.
  • Since 1980 only six horse have won the Preakness Stakes without first running in the Kentucky Derby: Codex (1980), Aloma’s Ruler (1982), Deputed Testamony (1983),Red Bullet (2000), Bernardini   (2006), and Rachel Alexandra (2009).
  • The betting favorite has won the Preakness Stakes in 72 of the 141 races, including in two of the last three years.
  • The No. 6 post is the most successful starting gate spot, with 16 all-time Preakness winners (15.5 percent of all 106 entries). Oxbox in 2013 was the most recent No. 6 to win. Gunnevera, ridden by Mike Smith, is the No. 6 horse heading into Saturday, at 15/1 odds.
  • According to America’s Best Racing, seven of the 16 Kentucky Derby winners since 2000 have gone on to win the Preakness Stakes.
  • Renowned trainer Todd Pletcher is hoping to end his drought at the Preakness Stakes with race favorite and Kentucky Derby winner Almost Dreaming. Despite being named Trainer of the Year seven times and boasting two Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winners, Pletcher has never trained a Preakness winner. Always Dreaming’s jockey, John Velazquez, is also without a Preakness crown, having won the Derby and Belmont twice each.
  • Odds on Always Dreaming winning the Triple Crown have “Yes” as a +300 long shot (a $100 bet would win $300) with “No” priced at -450 (you need to wager $450 to win $100).

Covers.comhttp://www.covers.com/index.aspx racing analyst Monique Vag and senior managing editor Jason Logan contributed to this report. Covers is also owned by Tribune.