Now that Always Dreaming has won the Kentucky Derby, we are left with the one question we have to ask every year at this time - can Always Dreaming win the Triple Crown? After almost believing it would never happen again, we learned two years ago that it was possible. But can it happen again so soon? Or will Always Dreaming go the way of so many other talented, dominant Derby winners who run into a hurdle they can't get over later on? Can Always Dreaming find immortality?:
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He was clearly the best in the Derby: Some horses - most notably Classic Empire - had some good excuses for their shortcomings on the day, but I doubt Always Dreaming was going to be beaten on the day. He had a perfect trip, the pace set up well for him, he was ridden perfectly, and he was dialed in and ready to race. He didn't feel like he even had to work particularly hard to win the Derby - at least compared to some past winner. He could easily have enough left in the tank for another big race or two. So, when the best horse comes out of the race well, it's easy to be at least somewhat optimistic.
The field seems manageable: This was far from the most impressive crop of three year olds we have seen. Every horse - including Always Dreaming - had plenty of faults. This colt really proved himself in the Derby, while most other horses have not done so yet. If the colt can replicate his Derby effort - or at least come close - then it isn't hard to imagine that that would be good enough against this group.
His pedigree - or at least half of it: Half of Always Dreaming's pedigree is very impressive. His sire Bodemeister finished second as the favorite in the 2012 Kentucky Derby. Bodemeister's sire, Empire Maker, finished second as the favorite in the 2003 Derby before winning the Belmont. So there is plenty of Derby experience and class there. Bodemeister is a very young sire, but Empire Maker is also the grandsire of some colt named American Pharoah. Needless to say, Empire Maker can pass on some quality to his offspring. Based on that there is no reason at all to doubt Always Dreaming in either of the remaining Triple Crown races. Unfortunately, the other side of the pedigree is far less inspiring. His dam is Above Perfection, who was a very good sprinter and who comes from a line of sprinters and milers. We'll have to hope that the sire side continues to prove dominant in the blood of this colt.
Bowling pins can't win: If you watch the horses come out of the gate it was like watching bowling. Irish War Cry in the 17th hole was the ball, and he bounced right into McCraken in 15, and then they absolutely crushed Classic Empire in the 14th spot. All three were among the top contenders in the race, and impact affected them all. Classic Empire took it the worst, and yet he still ran a pretty remarkable race to finish fourth. Always Dreaming won't see Irish War Cry or McCraken in the Preakness, but Classic Empire is tentatively being pointed that way. If Classic Empire gets a smoother trip, which he absolutely should in a smaller field, then he will provide Always Dreaming with a tougher challenge than any he saw in Louisville.
Lack of experience: This horse still has only run in two stakes races - the Florida Derby and the Kentucky Derby. That isn't a lot. Now, it doesn't have to eliminate horses from a race for greatness - the second stakes race Arrogate ever ran in was the Breeders' Cup Classic last year. It just isn't great for a horse this young. It means that he hasn't faced a lot of adversity yet, so it's tougher to trust him than it could be. He also has never run back in less than a month, and now he will have to do that twice if he is going to win a Triple Crown.
Fresh runners: So often these days the end of a Triple Crown dream comes at the hands - or hooves - of a horse that hasn't run in prior Triple Crown races. And there are some pretty decent young horses waiting for their shot at a Triple Crown race - Royal Mo, Conquest Mo Money, Cloud Computing, Multiplier and potentially Always Dreaming's stablemate Malagacy. Especially in the Belmont those horses have such an edge over runners that have run in the first two legs of the Triple Crown.
This is really hard: Sure, American Pharoah won the Triple Crown just two years back. But a whole lot of extremely good horses have fallen short since Affirmed did it in 1978. Always Dreaming is a very nice horse, but that isn't nearly enough to win a Triple Crown. You also need a tremendous amount of luck, and it's a better bet that he won't have enough than that he will.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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