Cloud Computing stuns Preakness Stakes rivals
Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming finishes eighth after fading in stretch
Report: USA, Saturday
Pimlico (Baltimore): Preakness Stakes (Grade 1) 1m1½f | dirt | 3yo
Any hopes of a Triple Crown winner for 2017 bit the dust in a shock result to the 142nd edition of the Preakness Stakes as Cloud Computing (Chad Brown/Javier Castellano) ran down Classic Empire inside the final furlong to claim the $1.5 million contest by a head.
Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming faded at the head of the stretch after trying to make all and finished much nearer last than first, a dismal eighth of ten beaten more than 13 lengths.
Sent off 6-5 favourite in front of a record crowd of 140,327 at Pimlico, he was pressured throughout by main market rival Classic Empire in what looked set for a dramatic two-horse showdown amid relatively quick fractions (23.16s, 46.81s, 1m11.0s).
It wasn't to be. Always Dreaming threw in the towel as they entered the stretch, after which Classic Empire looked sure to collect as he moved into a clear lead, only for near 13-1 shot Cloud Computing, who had stalked the leading pair throughout, to wear him down close home. Longshot Senior Investment took third, nearly five lengths adrift of the principals.
Having only the fourth start of his career, Cloud Computing had never previously scored outside maiden company. He is a son of Maclean's Music owned by Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence and representing the reigning Eclipse Award-winning pair of jockey Javier Castellano and trainer Chad Brown, hitherto better known for his prowess with turf horses.
"I'm not going to dispute the fact that I brought in a fresh horse as part of our strategy," Brown explained. "Our horse is very talented too. Classic Empire and Always Dreaming are two outstanding horses and our strategy was, if we were going to ever beat them, let's take them on two weeks' rest when we have six, and it worked."
Brown's association with Castellano is the new powerhouse of US racing, and the jockey jumped off his Kentucky mount Gunnevera (fifth) to honour a commitment to the trainer to ride Cloud Computing.
"It's special, because Chad has given me a lot of support in my career," said the Venezuelan, whose only previous success in a Triple Crown race had come in the same contest via Bernardini in 2006.
"We had a plan and we were sticking to the plan and it worked out great. We analysed the race and handicapped the race together - we had a lot of thoughts and put them together and I think that is the most important thing in a relationship. We have a great communication together and I think that is the key to winning the race."
For his part, Brown paid tribute to his late mentor Bobby Frankel, who never won the Derby or Preakness. "I feel this is for him," said Brown. "Without his mentorship, I certainly wouldn't be here."
He was non-committal when asked about the likelihood of Cloud Computing's turning out again for the Belmont Stakes on June 10. "Do I think he's a mile-and-a-half horse?" said Brown. "He's never really struck me that way, but I'm not going to rule it out."
Julien Leparoux faced criticism that he went too soon on Classic Empire, though in reality he had little choice as he inherited the lead when Always Dreaming cried enough. "We got the trip we wanted, outside Always Dreaming," said the rider.
"The only thing is, Always Dreaming backed out of the race early, so I got to the lead early, maybe too early. I got to the lead early, and the winner just came at us at the end."
Trainer Mark Casse said he was surprised he was not more disappointed. "How could you be disappointed?" he said. "I thought he ran outstanding today. He ran his butt off and I'm just proud of him. All I asked for was for us to have a fair shake, and we got it today.
"My only disappointment was that Always Dreaming didn't carry him a little farther, because as we know he tends to wander a little bit, and he got to wandering."
Always Dreaming's trainer Todd Pletcher cut a calm figure in abject defeat. "He [Classic Empire] probably went pretty ambitiously at us and maybe cost himself the race," he said.
"But we didn't have an excuse. We were in the position we expected to be and I think the turnaround was a little too quick. He ran so hard in the Derby and today just wasn't his day.
"He didn't seem to relish the track, but I don’t really think that was it. It was just that he put so much into the Derby that it wasn’t meant to be."