Fa­vorite yet to be tested in 4 races

Al­ways Dream­ing will be chal­lenged by shorter dis­tance, smaller field

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - SPORTS - By Beth Har­ris Associated Press

BALTIMORE — Al­ways Dream­ing has run away from the com­pe­ti­tion in four con­sec­u­tive vic­to­ries this year, win­ning by a com­bined 23 1⁄ lengths. 4

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 the1 3⁄16- mile Preakness at Pim­lico on Satur­day de­pends on a good trip, the tac­tics by his nine ri­vals and a lit­tle luck. Al­ways Dream­ing is the early 4-5 fa­vorite un­der jockey John Velazquez.

“Al­ways Dream­ing hasn’t had many ob­sta­cles to face,” said Corey Lanerie, whow­ill 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 Satur­day when the race goes off about 6:48 p.m.

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 the­way 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 bulls-eye on his back in a smaller field go­ing a shorter dis­tance than twoweeks 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.”

Nei­ther Velazquez nor Pletcher has won the Preakness. Velazquez is 0 for 7, with his best fin­ish be­ing sec­ond in 2011 aboard Ken­tucky Derby win­ner An­i­mal King­dom. Pletcher is 0 for 8, with his high­est fin­ish com­ing in 2000 when Im­peach­ment was third.

Con­quest Mo Money, a 15-1 shot, has con­sis­tently run at or near the lead in his five ca­reer races. Al­ways Dream­ing and Clas­sic Em­pire have also shown speed.

Casse’s ideal sce­nario in­volves Al­ways Dream­ing and Con­quest Mo Money duel­ing in the early stages. If the pace is too fast, it gives closers a chance to­make a win­ning run at the end.

“We sit be­hind and watch,” he said.

Even with Al­ways Dream­ing’s dom­i­nance this year, eight of the past 12 Derby win­ners did not win the Preakness.

There’s a posse of con­tenders that­would love to ex­tend that his­tory.

One of them is Con­quest Mo Money, who sup­ple­mented to the Preakness for $150,000. He could use his speed to pres­sure Al­ways Dream­ing early or go for the lead out­right. An­other is Cloud Com­put­ing, who fig­ures to be sit­ting just off the lead­ers.

Lookin At Lee is a closer who could come run­ning late un­der Lanerie.

“I love the way my horse fin­ishes,” he said. “He’s taken on ev­ery­thing you could throwat him.”

Other closers look­ing to pounce are Gun­n­ev­era (10th in the Derby), Hence (11th in the Derby) and new shoot­ers Mul­ti­plier, Se­nior In­vest­ment and Term of Art.

MATT HA­ZLETT/GETTY IM­AGES

Al­ways Dream­ing is the early 4-5 fa­vorite un­der jockey John Velazquez for Satur­day’s Preakness Stakes at Pim­lico.

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