Smarty Jones followed two weeks later as the most decisive victor in Preakness history, by 11 3/4 lengths, and it is still possible to spark a debate about whether that or the Rebel Stakes, his second of three races at Oaklawn Park, represented his finest performance. This horse is doing better than he was before the Kentucky Derby.
During the past 10 years, nine Preakness winners ran in the Kentucky Derby, the only exception being the great filly Rachel Alexandra in 2009, when the Kentucky Oaks victor also won the Preakness with only a two-week turnaround. Pletcher is confident that Always Dreaming can do it, too.
All eyes are on Pimlico race track in Baltimore this weekend for the running of The Preakness, the second leg in horse racing's Triple Crown. In 2007, he returned with Louisiana Derby victor Circular Quay - 6th in Louisville's classic - and a longshot named King of the Roxy which had not competed at Churchill Downs. I've always said that this race, the Derby, the Belmont are always won by guys with experience. Despite thunderstorms Friday, Pimlico's track should be a smoother ride for Always Dreaming than it was past year for Nyquist. "We're focused on hopefully breaking cleanly and smoothly and letting him run to the first turn a little".
Doug O'Neill, trainer of Term Of ArtHe's knocked heads with some pretty good horses.
The two best horses in the Preakness will be eyeball to eyeball coming out of the starting gate.
Cloud Computing (Javier Castellano, 12-1): He's another lightly raced colt which may be sitting on a big effort. Don't even think about them - not even on superfectas.
"I think when you're the Derby victor it's important to get there and get settled in because there's so much more hoopla around you and so much more action and with him coming into the Derby, he was pretty fired up", Birkenhauer says.
Preakness Facts: Opening day at Pimlico Race Course in 1870 featured the Dinner Party Stakes that was won by a horse named Preakness.
Pletcher's former boss, six-time Preakness victor D. Wayne Lukas, joined him to watch Always Dreaming jog.
Though the rain let up before the start, the horses sloshed through huge puddles over 1 1/8 miles. The Steve Asmussen-trained runner got the dream rail trip in the Derby but will start from Post 9 in Baltimore.
Classic Empire (Julien Leparoux, 3-1): He broke very poorly in the Kentucky Derby and lost the race right from the very beginning. With a record of 6-4-1-1, Always Dreaming has earned more than $2.2 million.
Also trainer Mark Casse is training the colt as if he is the best horse. Owned by John Oxley, Classic Empire's fourth-place finish was actually a great outcome based on the frightful trip the son of Pioneerof the Nile endured.
"Pimlico race 13, $3 trifecta 5 with 4, 6, 10 and 4, 6, 10".
Of those that didn't compete in the Derby, longshot Senior Investment piques my interest as a dead closer and Conquest Mo Money is one tough hombre. His Derby win was no fluke.
Whether he does it again in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness at Pimlico on Saturday depends on a good trip, the tactics by his nine rivals and a little luck. All other runners in the 10-horse field will be double-digits when betting opens.
Notes: Animal Kingdom made a late charge but finished just behind Shackleford in the Preakness.
Cloud Computing leads the middle of the pack at +1400, ahead of Gunnevera at +1600, Conquest Mo Money at +1800 and Hence at +2000.
"I would imagine that they are going to target us and the target is right next to you", Pletcher said. But a winning ticket at decent odds is always exciting.
Early speed is Conquest Mo Money's strong suit.
"He's had a lot of things thrown at him, and he continues to fight back". I'd box the above trifecta to hedge my bets a bit.
Conquest Mo Money was a star in New Mexico before finishing second to Classic Empire in the Arkansas Derby.