Always Dreaming hot favourite for Preakness Stakes
Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming is even-money favourite with British bookmakers to add to his laurels by winning the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on Saturday week – and a 9-2 chance with Coral to complete the Triple Crown three weeks later in the Belmont.
Trainer Todd Pletcher plans to ship the son of Bodemeister to Baltimore on Tuesday morning ready for the second leg of American Triple Crown following his convincing victory at Churchill Downs, where he scored by two and three-quarter lengths under John Velazquez.
Given the pre-Derby concerns that Always Dreaming had been training too aggressively at Churchill Downs, Pletcher explained that he wanted to get Always Dreaming to Pimlico as quickly as possible to give him time to acclimatise to new surroundings instead of returning to his home base at Belmont Park in New York.
Speaking at Churchill Downs, Pletcher explained: "I think the fact that he was so headstrong when he got here means I don’t think staying here for another week is going to be an advantage.
"I don’t think going to Belmont for a week and then moving again is an advantage. Looking at what the options are, at Pimlico there’s generally not a lot of horses training there. I think it will be a quiet environment, give us time to get him settled in and if we have to make any adjustments we'll have time to do that."
Always Dreaming was multiple US champion trainer Pletcher's second Kentucky Derby winner after Super Saver in 2010. "The first one is special, but this one is just as good or even better," he said. "We had some anxious moments during the week, but we were just happy to see him deliver the performance that we felt he was capable of."
Possible rivals in the Preakness are headed by Kentucky Derby runner-up Lookin At Lee and Breeders' Cup winner Classic Empire, fourth at Churchill Downs after getting severely knocked about in the early stages of the race.
Casse reported Classic Empire to have come back with cuts and bruises and the equine equivalent of a black eye. "He looks a bit like Muhammad Ali after a rough night," said the trainer.
"A lot depends on how quickly the eye can come around and we're just going to have to wait and see. Believe me, I'd like another crack at everybody because he had a trip from hell – Julien [Leparoux] said he didn't know how he stayed up, he got hit so hard."
The John Shirreffs-trained Royal Mo, who was on the also-eligible list for the Derby but did not make it into the field, will accompany Always Dreaming on the flight from Louisville to Baltimore on Tuesday. Lexington Stakes victor Senior Investment is another Preakness probable.