Pletcher confident of Derby winner at Preakness


With a victory, Always Dreaming would head to the Belmont Stakes in NY three weeks later with a shot at winning the Triple Crown. First, it has been well documented that Classic Empire was obliterated in the cavalry charge out of the gate at Churchill Downs.

For a seventh-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby, Gunnevera got a lot of attention at Pimlico Race Course from the moment he stepped off the van from Churchill Downs on Saturday. We're just focused on hopefully breaking cleanly and smoothly and letting him run to the first turn a little bit. "And we sure didn't change our minds because of the results of the Derby". He's a tough son-of-a-gun. We still think he's the best horse, and we want to prove it. A fast track is anticipated. Senior Investment, an allowance victor at Oaklawn in February, beats Always Dreaming in a photo for third.

"He's the first horse like this that I've had in my career", said Jorge Carreno, the regular rider who has exercised the colt each morning this week. "He's always at the front of the stall, has his head out and his ears up and taking in the scenery". So Pletcher is here with Always Dreaming and he's enjoying himself in his customarily restrained way.

Lukas this week is running 3-year-old Aquamarine in the $200,000 Chick Lang and 3-year-old filly My Sweet Stella in the Hilltop on grass.

"His tank seems full", Pletcher said Thursday. Pletcher has watched the replay of horses getting bounced outside the Derby starting gate.

Pletcher, now 2 for 48 in the Derby and 2 for 22 in the Belmont Stakes, has never won the Preakness. With less chance to get bumped in the smaller field and with distance not an issue, Empire will break the hearts of those who were hoping to see a Triple Crown Contender.

Neither Pletcher nor Velazquez has won the Preakness - Always Dreaming will be only the ninth horse Pletcher has run in the race - and that drought continues. Super Saver finished a exhausted eighth. Theres no avoiding each other for Kentucky Derby victor Always Dreaming and rival Classic Empire. When placing a bet with a live teller at a racetrack or at an off-track betting facility, you need to use the track name, race number, type and amount of the bet, and the program number (s) for the horse (s) you are playing. The 3-1 second choice is Classic Empire from the 5 hole, the beaten Kentucky Derby morning line favorite who finished a gutty fourth in the Run for the Roses in spite of a very troubled trip.

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Always Dreaming is not a super horse, but one whose front-running style works against a relatively modest class of three-year-olds.

There is no one who really believes a major upset is possible. This season, he's been winless in four stakes, all at Santa Anita. Senior Investment has won four of his last five races with those steady improvements in his speed ratings, so at 30-1 he might be a show play.

"The champ's been knocked down and he's going to come back and try to take back the crown", Casse said.

Gunnevera, like the Asmussen pair, was making his fourth start of the year in the Derby. Hollendorfer was proud of his horse's Derby performance at 40-1 odds.

"I don't think he's enjoying it as much as he should", Lukas said. "He came out good, he's back here at Santa Anita and we're looking to run him maybe in the Affirmed (Stakes on June 24)". 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. The "Run for the Black-Eyed Susans" is held on the third Saturday in May and is only trumped by the Kentucky Derby in attendance for North American stakes races.

Before getting to the most likely victor, another horse to watch out for is Gunnevera, who has had more travel trouble than United Airlines.