It used to be that when a horse was entered in the Kentucky Derby you could also assume he would head to the Preakness as long as he stayed healthy - or at least it felt that way. Now, though, we just assume that we won't see most Derby horses again just two weeks later. Last year only three Derby horses - Nyquist, Exaggerator, and Lani - headed to Baltimore, and sadly that wasn't particularly shocking. The Preakness is always better when it is full of Derby entrants. So, how many Derby horses will there be in the Preakness this year? So far, it's shaping up to be reasonably good, actually:
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All But Certain
Always Dreaming: Derby winners don't skip the Preakness, so this one is no surprise. The colt had as easy a trip as you can have in the Kentucky Derby, and he came out of it looking good. Trainer Todd Pletcher is in a fairly unfamiliar spot here - he has started 48 horses in the Derby but just eight in the Preakness. He usually skips the middle jewel, and when he does head there he arrives late, keeping his horses at his home base at Belmont for as long as he can. This time around he is doing it differently, though, sending Always Dreaming right from Churchill Downs to Pimlico. The colt didn't settle into Churchill very well when he arrived, so Pletcher is hoping that by giving the colt as much time as he can in Baltimore he'll get comfortable by race time. He's definitely the horse to beat.
Lookin at Lee: The little horse that could overcame obstacles in the Derby to finish second at a huge price to help inflate the exotics to ridiculous prices. Trainer Steve Asmussen obviously liked what he saw, and he wasted no time in confirming that the colt would head to Pimlico. We have an easy way to know that the horse is capable of big things there - his sire, Lookin at Lucky, won the Preakness back in 2010. Always Dreaming's dad, Bodemeister, was only second in the Preakness in his year, so in this way - if in no other - Lookin at Lee has the edge between the two.
Gunnevera: This colt experienced a change of intentions in a hurry. After the Derby it seemed like Gunnevera, who was a non-threatening seventh in the race, was headed for a break. By Monday, though, Mike Smith had been named as the rider for the Preakness to replace Javier Castellano, and the colt was off to Pimlico. The colt deserves another shot. He's bred to run forever, and sire Dialed In was fourth in the Preakness, so he fits here on paper. He likely isn't as good as Always Dreaming after having finished behind him two races in a row, but he is better than he showed at Churchill Downs, and the Preakness will be better for having him in it. The rider change is a good one, too. Castellano is as good as it gets, but sometimes a shift among top riders helps not because the colt gets a better ride but because he gets different signals and a different personality that could suit him better. Smith is a master at getting horses to settle down. And that is what it feels like Gunnevera needs.
Hence: This is another surprise. On Saturday night the stablemate of Lookin at Lee was unlikely for this race, but by Monday he was pointed for it. He didn't have a great day in Kentucky, but he was pelted with a lot of mud and didn't like it. He didn't do anything wrong, and he is better than his 11 th-place finish, so he is deserving of another shot. For his sake and the sake of others, here's hoping that he gets a drier and better track this time around. Trainer Steve Asmussen has won the Preakness twice, though those wins were with Curlin and Rachel Alexandra, and neither of his colts here could breathe the same air as those two.
Classic Empire: Classic Empire is quite likely to head to Baltimore. The only reason I put him here is because he came out of the Derby with some scrapes and some swelling in his eye from having mud kicked into it. As long as he bounces back quickly he'll head to Baltimore. He needs to be there. His luck in the Derby was just awful. As his race was just getting going he was absolutely crushed from outside by McCraken and Irish War Cry. That knocked him well off the pace and forced him to regroup and run the race much differently than planned. He may not have been good enough to catch Always Dreaming on the day if he had run his race, but he certainly could have. After a spring that has just been snakebitten, the colt really deserves to run a race that is just straightforward and simple. More often than not the Preakness avoids drama and the best horse wins. Classic Empire could really make things interesting if that happens again this year.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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