Horses leave the starting gate Saturday during the 142nd running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.
Instead, the disappointment was doubled, as Cloud Computing – a 13-1 long shot – beat Classic Empire by a head.
Always Dreaming finished eighth in the 10-horse field, 13 1/2 lengths adrift, to end his bid at capturing the USA equine thoroughbred Triple Crown by sweeping the Derby, Preakness and next month’s Belmont Stakes. Classic Empire faltered as well, his three-length lead swallowed up by Cloud Computing who won at the wire. With both colts digging in, it was Cloud Computing the victor by a head at odds of 13 to 1. It was 4 3/4 lengths back to 31-1 Senior Investment in third.
It worked, and now Brown has the chance to go for a second Triple Crown race on home dirt at Belmont in three weeks. Castellano won for the 2nd time.
Pletcher and Always Dreaming’s other connections embraced that challenge and did not voice any complaints afterward, instead acknowledging how tough it is to win two Triple Crown races in the span of two weeks. Watching the race today from Always Dreaming, I was surprised.
“I was having flashbacks to the ’70s”, Lawrence said, with a grin of wonder and satisfaction that refused to leave his face. “But we didn’t have an excuse”.
Julien Leparoux rode Classic Empire. The colt could have gone on to the Derby, but the trainer and owners thought it was wise to pass on running in a 20-horse race with such an inexperienced horse.
Pletcher is as good a sabermetrician as he is a horseman, and he had run only eight horses here previously, because he prefers giving them a five-week break between races.
It was also the first American Classic win for co-owner Seth Klarman of Klaravich Stables, who moved to Baltimore when he was six and has fond memories of going to Pimlico as a child. “We were in a position we expected to be, and I think the turnaround was a little too quick”.
Mark Casse, trainer of 2-year-old champion Classic Empire, noted that his colt inherited the lead from Always Dreaming far sooner than anyone could have anticipated.
Cloud Computing’s connection made it clear all along that they were eyeing the Preakness. But just like horse racing always, it’s never about one horse.
“He didn’t seem to relish the track, but I don’t really think that was it. It’s really special for us”, Castellano said.
The victor, Cloud Computing, skipped the Kentucky Derby and was far fresher than Always Dreaming.
“I know I’m young, but you have to have an incredible team of people that share a common goal”, Brown said.
“We’ll savor the Derby victory”, Pletcher said.
Meanwhile, Castellano rode the ideal race and his horse got the flawless trip. He went to work and brought a better horse to Pimlico than the one who showed little in his third-place effort in the Wood, a race that initially looked like one of the weakest Derby preps run this year.
“I said, ‘Let’s try to win this thing (by pressing Always Dreaming),’ ” Casse said.
The loss left Pletcher 0 for 9 at the Preakness.
“It’s a 3-year-old race more than a mile and an eighth for a lot of money”, he said.