Belmont May 20 and Preakness Stakes

Let’s start with the Preakness.

The question to ask is pretty simple. Is Always Dreaming beatable? There is certainly always a chance, but on paper he looks very strong. So let’s go through the field and figure out a betting strategy.

1  Multiplier. He started racing as a three year old and has gotten better with each start. He ran third in the mud in his initial start, and two races later broke his maiden at the Fair Grounds. Off that victory he won the G3 Illinois Derby at Hawthorne, and now steps up to Grade 1 company. The short story is that he appears too inexperienced and too slow to compete with this group. Brendan Walsh got his start as a trainer apprenticing for Eddie Kenneally and has been on his own for about five years. He’s done well this year and in time Multiplier might be able to compete with these, but today he’s a toss for me.

2  Cloud Computing. Another late starter trained by Chad Brown. He took the Gotham/Wood route to the Triple Crown, and while he ran a decent second in the Gotham and a fair third in the Wood, neither of the winners in those races came back to run particularly well in the Derby. The fact that Chad Brown trains him is a positive, but he’s going to have to improve to catch a piece here.

3  Hence. He came to the Derby with a bit of hype off an impressive Sunland Derby win. Irap, one of the also rans in that race, came back to win the Bluegrass, and Conquest Mo Money ran a nice second in the Arkansas Derby after finishing second in the Sunland Derby, both horses flattering Hence. Like many of the horses in the Derby, he had trouble, but it would be hard to give him a real chance of winning the race coming off the Derby and one decent run at Sunland. Maybe he could sneak into a back hole, but he doesn’t appeal to me beyond that.

4  Always Dreaming. A look at the past performances reveals an impressive runner that appears to have come into his own. The Florida Derby win was impressive, the Derby win more so. Let’s look at the positives. He’s the speed in a race without much speed on a track that is normally kind to speed. The switch from Dominic Schettino to Todd Pletcher has made an enormous impact on the horse. And as I said, he seems to be getting better with each race. The negatives on the KY Derby win are that he was on a rail that was the consensus place to be, the fractions of the race were average, and the final quarter was hardly spectacular. One horse was rapidly making up ground, and that was Lookin at Lee coming up the preferred rail. Todd Pletcher has a horrible record with horses coming back in 14 days or less, but then again he was something like 1 for 44 entering the Derby, so perhaps that statistic isn’t as meaningful. Do the negatives make the horse vulnerable? Eh, maybe a little, but it’s not like you can make a case for too many of the other horses coming out of the Derby, with one exception I’ll get to in a bit. It would be gambling to leave AD out of the top slot, but this may be a race to do that. On the other hand, putting him on top can’t be criticized.

5  Classic Empire. Clearly he had about as bad a trip as any horse in the Derby, from being shuffled around early to being blocked later in the race. The bad news is that he seems to be a horse that has more than his share of trouble in races. Still, with only ten runners, the Preakness might be a race where he can run his “A” race, assuming he makes a fair break.  This horse was the two year old of the year, ran somewhat dull in his 3YO debut, and then came fully to hand in the Arkansas Derby, a race that produced second place finisher Lookin at Lee. The horse has the ability to track and that could put Always Dreaming in a  spot where he can’t casually lope along by himself on the lead.  That can make it a race in the stretch to see which horse is better. Do I think he’s a better horse than Always Dreaming? I think the possibility is there, and I think I’m will to pay to find out.

6  Gunnevera. He’s another one of the horses that come into the Derby with a lot of support and given the switch from Castellano to Mike Smith he may garner support here. He was a winner in the Fountain of Youth, but was dull in the Florida Derby and the KY Derby. Off his best Florida races he’s not out of the question, but he doesn’t give me great inspiration.

7  Terms of Art. As much respect as I have for Doug O’Neill, this horse looks like a non-contender to me. I’d stick him in the fourth slot at best.

8  Senior Investment. The winner of the Lexington really faces by far his toughest challenge. For me he’s another non-contender.

9  Lookin at Lee. The second place runner in the Derby had a good trip, saving ground on an advantageous rail early and closing on it late. This time he’s going to have to get over to the rail early, so he’ll likely save ground again, and then find the right path to unleash his kick in the stretch. Can he spring the upset today? I wouldn’t make that a very high probability. He’s 10-1 on the ML, and I’d say that’s about right. He has to be used in the money, but I’d struggle to put him in the top slot.

10  Conquest Mo Money. He’s the so-called new shooter in the race. He didn’t go in the Derby but he showed he was not just a Sunland horse when he ran second to Classic Empire in the Arkansas Derby. He’s another one with enough speed to press Always Dreaming and that may give him an advantage. Again, I’m having a hard time seeing him get by my top two choices.

The strategy:  It’s hard to imagine there are horses better than Always Dreaming at the moment. Still, that’s why they don’t run the race on paper. If you want to bet the individual race, I’d think about trifectas and superfectas. Even then I’m hard pressed to figure out how to make much money. I would use Classic Empire on top. He’s the one horse that has run well in top graded stakes and has a big excuse coming out of the Derby.

  • 5/4/2,3,6,9,10/2,3,6,9,10
  • 5/4/3,9,10/2,3,6,9,10
  • 5/3,9,10/4/2,3,6,9,10


Race 1

  • 5  The Brown Bomber
  • 2  Pimm’s Cup
  • 1  Coral Ridge

Race 2

  • 4  Augie’s Coming
  • 7  Blafe’s Corner
  • 3  Fielding Gold
  • Secondary (5)

Race 3

  • 6  Highland Sky
  • 1  Arties Silver Mine
  • 2  Fire Away

Race 4

  • 3  Luna Rising
  • 1  Luz Mimi
  • 2  Wildcat Belle
  • Secondary (6)

Race 5

  • 4  Queen of Spades
  • 7  Pop Singer
  • 6  Five Each Way
  • Secondary (1, 5)

Race 6

  • 5  Battery
  • 2  Our Karma
  • 3  Swift One
  • Secondary (4, 7)

Race 7

  • 8  Lull
  • 6  Con Te PArtiro
  • 9  Happy Mesa
  • Secondary (2, 5, 4)

Race 8

  • 10  Tiz a Chance
  • 1  Aktabantay
  • 4  Winter Springs
  • Secondary (8, 9)

Race 9

  • 8  Dream a Little
  • 10  Satin Sheets
  • 4  Out of Trouble
  • Secondary (9, 2, 7)

Race 10

  • 1  Youth Gone Wild
  • 10  Prima Attrice
  • 4  Empty House
  • Secondary (5, 6, 8)