Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Always Dreaming resumed his regular training schedule for the 142nd Preakness Stakes (G1) Saturday at 6 a.m., galloping 1 1/4 miles over the sloppy sealed track at Pimlico Race Course.
Trainer Todd Pletcher had opted to jog the Bodemeister colt with a pony on the wet track Friday morning but allowed him to gallop Saturday with exercise rider Nick Bush aboard. Pletcher was pleased with how the colt owned by MeB Racing, Brookyln Boyz, Teresa Viola, St. Elias Stable, Siena Farm and West Point Thoroughbreds looked on the track.
“Always Dreaming I thought actually went really well,” Pletcher said. “He took a nice grip but was settled, relaxed, got over the ground really well. I thought that in spite of the rain overnight that the track was actually smoother this morning than it was yesterday morning. It had a nice seal to it and was pretty consistent all the way across the track. I was really, really pleased with the way he went this morning.”
Pletcher checked out the conditions before deciding that he would let the energetic colt have the more strenuous exercise of a gallop.
“Yeah, I was concerned because I had looked at the radar overnight,” Pletcher said. “I couldn’t tell exactly when it started raining, but it looked like it rained most of the night and it was raining when we got here this morning. I was pleasantly surprised how good the surface was this morning when I walked out on it at 5:30.”
When Always Dreaming became too aggressive in his morning training at Churchill Downs a week prior to the Derby, Pletcher made an equipment change, adding draw reins that control a horse’s head, and switching to Bush, a stronger exercise rider. Those moves worked well in the days leading up to the Derby, which Always Dreaming went on to win by 2 ¾ lengths. Pletcher has stayed with the draw reins for gallops since shipping the colt to Maryland on Tuesday.
“It seemed like he was really just perfect this morning,” Pletcher said. “He was enthusiastic enough, but he didn’t overdo it. I think there was one horse on the track while he was out there and I don’t think he ever saw that horse. It was kind of that quiet environment that we were hoping for. I was concerned because anytime that you train on a sloppy surface they can get a little more excited with all the noise that comes along with that, but he was really good. Especially after having a jog day, I thought he was even more settled than I expected him to be.”
Always Dreaming will not have a timed work between the Derby and the Preakness. He is scheduled to go to the track at 6 a.m. Sunday. Following his gallop he will school in the starting gate.
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez will ride Always Dreaming in the Preakness.
Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence’s Cloud Computing breezed a half-mile Saturday morning under exercise rider Peter Roman just after the Belmont Park training track opened at 5:30 a.m. The son of Maclean’s Music was timed in 48.40 seconds by Daily Racing Form.
“He breezed very well, galloped out super and came back good so far,” trainer Chad Brown said by phone. “That’s his last piece of work and if he comes out of it well he’ll be on to Baltimore on Tuesday.”
Cloud Computing finished third in the Gotham Stakes (G3) and third in the Wood Memorial (G2) to earn 40 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby. That was enough to make it into the Derby field, but the colt’s connections decided to pass the Derby, in which Klaravich and Lawrence’s Practical Joke was fifth, and wait for the Preakness with Cloud Computing.
Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Moss’ Royal Mo jogged around the shedrow of the Preakness Stakes Barn at Pimlico Saturday morning.
While checking the radar on his phone’s weather app and trying to gauge when the morning rains might stop, trainer John Shirreffs said he hoped Royal Mo will have the opportunity to put in a five-furlong breeze Sunday morning.
“I’m hoping. We’re not going to get a lot more rain, and they’ll be working the track all day, so I think it looks good,” said Shirreffs, who saddled the son of Uncle Mo for a victory in the Robert Lewis (G3) and a third-place finish in the Santa Anita Derby (G1).
Shirreffs, who has scheduled the work for 8:30 a.m., was in the process of engaging a local rider for his trainee’s final serious preparation for the Preakness.
“I just texted Gary Stevens to see if he had any suggestions of someone he knows who would like to work the horse,” said Shirreffs, who has employed local exercise rider and aspiring jockey Taylor Leatherman for Royal Mo’s morning jogs and gallops during the week.
Stevens has the Preakness mount.
As it has turned out, Preakness candidate Conquest Mo Money cost far less money than owner Tom McKenna imagined. McKenna and his wife Nancy will be making their first start in a Triple Crown race with the New York-bred son of Uncle Mo that they purchased for $8,500 in the Conquest Stable dispersal sale in November.
It’s an understatement to say he has done well for them. He won three in a row to start his career, two of them in stakes, then finished second in the Sunland Derby (G3) and second in the Arkansas Derby (G1). He has earned $508,900 and the McKennas have spent $150,000 to supplement him to the Preakness because he had not been nominated to the Triple Crown series.
McKenna, 81, picks out horses on appearance over pedigree and figured he had no shot of buying the colt. But he acquired him for what is now an are-you-kidding price and he has become the star of the McKenna’s Judge Lanier Racing, a power in New Mexico. Conquest purchased him for $180,000 as a yearling.
“He fell through the cracks. It is a blessing from God, I guarantee you,” McKenna said. “It was a very fortuitous thing that happened. I’ve worked a lot of sales. I don’t use agents. I do all my own buying. I do all my own claiming. I’m hands-on in the management of this stable. Anyway, I don’t think it will happen again in my lifetime. It was unbelievable. Nonetheless, we got him and he hasn’t disappointed us. This horse has the best head of any colt that I have had in my life. He’s an amazing horse. My 14-year-old grandson could train that horse. That’s how easy he is. He’s just automatic. He’s just a dream, a dream.”
McKenna says he enjoys shopping at dispersals because the conditions can be favorable to the buyer.
“When the Heiligbrodt Racing Stable dispersed, I bought African Rose out of that sale for $6,500 and she’s won almost $600,000 now,” he said. “I like dispersals because of the fact that there are no reserves. I knew that this dispersal with that number of horses that there had to be some bargains.”
McKenna said he does his due diligence by inspecting all the horses being offered – he believes he has a God-given eye for horses – and compiles a list of prospects that might fit into his budget.
“I don’t have deep pockets and I’ve got to limit myself,” he said. “I get in on horses I might have an opportunity to buy. I watch for ones that might slip through the cracks.
Breeding is the second thing I look at in the horse. I might pick a horse that is a little crooked or not quite correct, but has other things that might outweigh that. I might look at a horse that a lot of these agents might not look at.”
McKenna was stunned at the lack of interest when Conquest Mo Money came into the ring at Keeneland and entered the auction.
“In this particular instance, I had not planned on bidding on Mo Money,” McKenna said. “I just thought that he would be totally out of my price range. Lo and behold, I got him.”
Conquest Mo Money, who breezed a half-mile in 48.40 seconds at Prairie Meadows Friday, is expected to arrive by van at Pimlico Sunday.
Jockey Julien Leparoux, an Eclipse Award winner as an apprentice and journeyman, has won seven Breeders’ Cup races but is awaiting his first in a Triple Crown event. Leparoux, now 33, was second in the 2008 Preakness aboard Macho Again, a position he hopes to improve upon this year with John Oxley’s Classic Empire, last year’s 2-year-old champion who finished fourth in last week’s Kentucky Derby.
Classic Empire’s Derby was over almost as soon as it started. He broke cleanly from the No. 14 post, and there appeared to be plenty of room to his outside, with McCraken in the 15 hole, the first stall in the six-horse auxiliary starting gate used to accommodate a 20-horse field. But Irish War Cry veered into McCraken, who came over sharply into Classic Empire, who in turn careened into No. 13 J Boys Echo.
“He broke very sharp, broke very well,” Leparoux said at Churchill Downs. “But the outside horses just came over very quick and very, very hard – bumped him very hard. It was kind of tough to overcome that, but he ran a great race, a big, big race. Hopefully, we’ll get a cleaner trip at Pimlico and try to win it this time.”
The plan had been to be up close to the pace – not far behind eventual winner Always Dreaming and third-place finisher Battle of Midway. The plan worked for one jump. After the second and third jumps, Classic Empire led only the rear third of the capacity field.
“I mean, they bumped me very, very hard,” Leparoux said. “I even looked behind because I thought I came in so hard that I dropped the one inside of me. Luis Saez (on J Boys Echo) got hit pretty bad, too…. I knew it was going to be tough from there. He ran a great race to finish fourth and never quit on me.”
On the far turn, Leparoux appeared in a good spot following the highly-regarded McCraken.
“I thought he’d bring me to a good position in the race,” he said. “But by doing that, I got wide, probably five or six wide around the second turn and I had to go around him. I shouldn’t say improve, but if we get a better race, we should get closer to or beat Always Dreaming.
“The good thing about that day was that he was so professional. Everybody was worried how he was going to act with that crowd, 160,000 people. He was such a pro. He was very relaxed, got to the gate no problem and broke sharp. He did everything well,” he added. “It’s too bad we got a rough start over that. (The Preakness) is not as big of a field. If he breaks as good as he did and puts me in the race, we should be in a better spot during the race and hopefully we can reverse the finish.
“Always Dreaming is a great horse, and he was very impressive. Not taking anything from what he did. I just want to have a good race for both of them, and see which one is the best one. Maybe it is Always Dreaming, but I don’t think the Derby was fair enough for Classic Empire to say, ‘OK, maybe Always Dreaming is better.’ I think if we have a good race and he has a good race, we’ll see who is best,” Leparoux continued. “That’s my goal in the Preakness: both of them good racing, good trip and see what happens.”
Classic Empire jogged a lap and galloped a lap Saturday morning at Churchill under exercise rider Martin Rivera.
“He was real aggressive, he was on the bridle,” said Norman Casse, who oversees the Kentucky operation for his dad, trainer Mark Casse, “showing really encouraging signs that he’s happy and healthy right now.”
The Arkansas Derby (G1) winner will train Sunday morning then be part of the Casse Pimlico-stakes contingent leaving about 3 p.m. to van to Baltimore. The horses will have a walk day Monday and resuming training Tuesday.
Kentucky Derby runner-up Lookin At Lee and his 11th-place stablemate Hence, both trained by Steve Asmussen, had routine gallops at Churchill Downs. Meanwhile, the Antonio Sano-trained Gunnevera, seventh in the Derby, left early Saturday morning to van to Baltimore.
Galloping at Keeneland were the Brendan Walsh-trained Illinois Derby (G3) winner Multiplier and Keeneland’s Lexington (G3) winner Senior Investment for trainer Kenny McPeek. Both horses are scheduled to work Sunday.
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