LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - After conquering both the mud and his 19 challengers on the first Saturday in May, Always Dreaming emerged from the Derby as a real threat to take down all three jewels of the coveted Triple Crown.
Nothing seems to phase this guy. At this stage his attitude and professionalism are very comparable to those of American Pharoah. So it’s on to the next jewel in Baltimore and Always Dreaming has looked the part of a star since arriving at Pimlico.
The colt’s morning gallops have suggested his mile-and-a-quarter run at Churchill has left plenty in his tank. The best may yet to come for the Derby winner.
A new surface doesn't figure to be an obstacle as this year Always Dreaming has been victorious over three tracks -- Tampa, Gulfstream and Churchill Downs. With his Hall of Fame jockey, John Velazquez, and future Hall of Fame trainer, Todd Pletcher, the colt owns a terrific support team.
As you see, I really like Always Dreaming, but I think Classic Empire can turn the tables at the Preakness. Classic Empire’s troubled trip in the Derby has been well-documented. The colt experienced a brutal trip and to me, it's amazing that he gathered himself to finish fourth. With a better start, Classic Empire likely would have been in the front tier of runners.
Instead, after getting plowed shortly after the start, he got shuffled way back and never could get to the track's inside, where the footing was much better than out in the middle of the track.
Now don’t get me wrong, even a clean run may not have made a difference versus Always Dreaming. But I say the the Derby finish would've been much, much closer.
Classic Empire flashed his class in finishing fourth at Churchill Downs. And he did the same in capturing the Arkansas Derby as he was coming off a long layoff. When the year began, he was stamped as the clear Kentucky Derby favorite.
He and Always Dreaming are clearly the top pair for the Preakness, and I expect them to be vying for the lead in the mid-stretch of racing’s second jewel.
Breaking from post five, Classic Empire's jockey, Julien Leparoux, might have an advantage on the outside of the Derby champ, who drew post four.
There's not much speed in the Preakness, and one would expect Always Dreaming to be either first or second down the backstretch.
This time, the Empire will strike back in Baltimore. Leparoux will stalk on an outside path and then pounce.
Win: Classic Empire
Place: Always Dreaming
Show: Lookin At Lee
You can watch the Preakness Stakes at 5 p.m. on WAVE 3 News and NBC Sports.
Copyright 2017 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.