Sometimes it pays to have a fresh horse.
Beyond the always-exciting prospect of having a Triple Crown victor, the Preakness Stakes is one of the most anticipated and lucrative annual events in horse racing, with a purse totaling $1.5 million.
While the connections of Kentucky Derby victor Always Dreaming saw their dream end in the 142nd Preakness Stakes, a Baltimore guy who grew just a few blocks from Pimlico Race Course, had one come true.
The Triple Crown dream has died for Kentucky Derby victor Always Dreaming, who came up short in the second leg at the Preakness Stakes on Saturday.
In a final, fierce charge, Cloud Computing, ridden by Javier Castellano, nosed ahead of Classic Empire. Cloud Computing trainer Chad Brown held his horse out of the Derby and pointed specifically toward the Preakness. "I think possibly some of the reason that we won was because we were patient and didn't throw an inexperienced horse against a 20-horse field in the Derby on a very hard track".
Trainer Steve Asmussen said he thought Lookin At Lee was going to catch Always Dreaming in the Derby, and only the winner's great talent prevented it.
Classic Empire ran a solid race, hanging with the front-running Always Dreaming before taking the lead in the stretch.
Classic Empire and Julien Leparoux went into the stretch with three-length lead, seemingly on his way to the winner's circle.
Jockey John Velazquez knew he was in trouble as the horses turned for home in the 1 3/16-mile race.
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While Pletcher isn't expected to run Always Dreaming in the Belmont Stakes, he said a decision hasn't been made.
Cloud Computing was racing for just the fourth time, but was ridden by champion jockey Javier Castellano for the first time.
Senior Investment, a 30-1 shot, ran third and returned $10.20 to show.
The Preakness is the second leg of the Triple Crown, the annual competition that begins with the Kentucky Derby in April and ends with the Belmont Stakes in early June. Castellano also won on Bernardini in 2006. Then Mr. Brown gave me the opportunity to ride the horse in the Preakness. "That puts them in a different position than horses who have not consistently run on that stage".
"I know I'm young, but you have to have an incredible team of people that share a common goal", Brown said.
They broke out of the starting gate next to each other and the fight was on. He said Classic Empire might have run out of gas because he was too concerned with Always Dreaming. Another is Cloud Computing, who figures to be sitting just off the leaders. "Our horse is very talented, too, but Classic Empire and Always Dreaming are two outstanding horses".
Always Dreaming trainer Todd Pletcher, despite winning seven Eclipse Awards, remains winless in the Preakness with his nine starters dating to 2000.
As a public handicapper, I've always been reluctant to just say, "I like the favorites in this race". And it seems he won every race but the Derby and the Preakness, really.
Pletcher and Always Dreaming's other connections embraced that challenge and did not voice any complaints afterward, instead acknowledging how tough it is to win two Triple Crown races in the span of two weeks.