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  1. #31
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    Welsch: Preakness analysis

    Despite giving his connections and supporters some anxious moments during training hours in the days leading up to the big event, ALWAYS DREAMING showed up cool and calm in the paddock, then validated the notion that he is the best of his division at the present time with a decisive victory in the Kentucky Derby.

    Granted, he benefitted from a perfectly orchestrated trip under John Velazquez, but aside from the runner-up, who tripped out pretty darn well himself, the rest of the field was strung out far behind at the wire. And considering the manner in which he appears to have come out of the race, it’s hard to get past the notion that Always Dreaming will prevail again in the middle jewel of the Triple Crown.

    HENCE came off too big a performance at Sunland Park and trained too well exiting that race not to get a mulligan after dropping far back early, fanning wide against the track bias, and eating so much mud on Derby Day. I’m expecting a major improvement with a little better racing luck, and he figures to offer some real value behind the odds-on favorite.

    CLASSIC EMPIRE ran huge after getting slammed at the start and hung out wide in the Derby, and as a result, he likely will be somewhat overbet in Saturday’s rematch with Always Dreaming. Obviously, his abundant talent and heart are not to be questioned, and it may be just a matter of whether he’ll be able to bounce back and move forward from two pretty taxing efforts while making his third start within just a five-week span.

    LOOKIN AT LEE had a perfect trip in the Derby, hugging the rail, arguably the best part of the track, every step of the way under Corey Lanerie. He’s not likely to get that kind of dream run again on Saturday, although he shows up every time and certainly is hard to leave out for one of the minor awards in the gimmicks.

    Cloud Computing is the most intriguing of the new faces. He ran against the grain of an inside-speed-biased strip in the Wood Memorial, although the race certainly wasn’t flattered by Irish War Cry’s failure to fire late in the Derby and runner-up Battalion Runner’s subsequent removal from consideration for the Derby. This lightly raced but extremely promising-looking sort is eligible to move forward from that experience, but I’m thinking his best days may lie further down the road.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

  2. #32
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    Beer: Preakness 2017 analysis

    As ALWAYS DREAMING makes his way to Pimlico for the second jewel in racing’s Triple Crown, it is worth looking back to where he started in order to predict what we may get from him Saturday.

    With only two weeks between the Derby and Preakness, much has been made of trainer Todd Pletcher’s record on short rest. In short, it is not great. Pletcher has been in this position once before – his only other Derby winner, Super Saver, finished eighth in the Preakness as the favorite.

    But Always Dreaming is not Super Saver, and he is a Derby winner who appears to have plenty going for him in Baltimore. In looking at the development of Always Dreaming, it is worth noting that he is not a typical classic contender from this barn.

    First of all, he was not trained by Pletcher as a juvenile. He ran only twice last year, and while he didn’t win, he avoided the grind and did run a relatively fast race (88 Beyer Speed Figure in his second start) before being put away.

    Switched to Pletcher’s care for his 3-year-old campaign, he seemed to be kept under wraps, first going to Tampa Bay Downs to bury overmatched maidens and then going right into his available condition to post another easy win in a race where he was only asked to run for about an eighth of a mile.

    He showed his class and his true talent when finally stepping up to take the Florida Derby. And he then dominated the Kentucky Derby field two weeks ago over a wet track.

    Fastest on the way into the Preakness, Always Dreaming finds a field with little early speed to compromise his chances, and based on the way he has been handled to this point, he does not appear to have come all that close to finding his bottom yet.

    The favorite figures to have the most to fear from last year’s juvenile male champ, CLASSIC EMPIRE. One of the few exiting the Derby with a legit excuse, he also is the one with a top figure to match the favorite. Since earning that 102 Beyer at last year’s Breeders’ Cup, he has earned figures of 87, 94, and 90 during a rocky 2017 campaign. He now finds himself in the position of having to prove that he is an improved 3-year-old. If he is, he may be the most likely upsetter, but it’s not exactly a given, and he is going to take plenty of money in this race.

    GUNNEVERA needs a trip, but he is close to these with his best race, and it is easy enough to excuse his two most recent races – an impossible trip from a tough post in the Florida Derby and a wet track in a Derby that did not flatter his running style. Many will take Cloud Computing as the new shooter, but he exits a poor overall prep in the Wood Memorial. MULTIPLIER will offer much more value and may ultimately turn out to be just as good.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

  3. #33
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    Brad Free: Preakness 2017 analysis

    With a better trip two weeks ago, CLASSIC EMPIRE might have given Kentucky Derby winner ALWAYS DREAMING a battle. But the only luck Classic Empire had in the Derby was bad luck. He bobbled and was wiped out at the break, ran 75 feet farther than the winner (according to Trakus), and finished fourth. Classic Empire lost by less than nine lengths. Under the circumstances, it was an outstanding performance. With a better trip in the Preakness, Classic Empire can turn the tables on the Derby winner.

    Classic Empire has more speed than he showed last out. Barring trouble at the break, he figures to be forwardly placed. He certainly will be closer to the front than his 12-length deficit last out. The champion 2-year-old male, compromised by an interrupted training pattern early this year, followed by a Grade 1 victory in April and a tough trip in the Derby, Classic Empire is a top colt due for a break. No knocks on the favorite, but the odds discrepancy makes Classic Empire the Preakness bet.

    Always Dreaming does everything right. He took it to the Derby field and ran them off their feet while running relatively fast, again. He earned a 102 Beyer Speed Figure, following a 97 in the Florida Derby. He has speed and is versatile. If a rival insists on the lead, he can sit second. He did it in the Derby. The knock on Always Dreaming is price. His odds are likely to be short. Derby winners have won three of the last five Preakness Stakes, but they won just one of the seven before that.

    In a Preakness that this handicapper considers a two-horse affair, the play is the higher price, Classic Empire. And yet there are others, including a “longshot,” who could keep the favorite honest on the front end. That horse is CONQUEST MO MONEY.

    Conquest Mo Money, supplemented for $150,000, has never run a bad race. He finished only a half-length behind Classic Empire in the Arkansas Derby, skipped the Kentucky Derby, and enters the Preakness fresh. His up-front style should play well in a field with just one other confirmed front-runner. Win or lose, he will press the favorite from the outside. If his odds remain double digits, Conquest Mo Money might be worth backing.

    LOOKIN AT LEE, the Derby runner-up with a rail trip on the best part of the track, will roll late. He is a reliable stretch runner who probably requires a pace meltdown to win. Term of Art, Gunnevera, and Hence will close late. Cloud Computing is lightly raced, with a right to improve. However, he was soundly defeated in the Wood Memorial by Irish War Cry, who was dusted in the Derby.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

  4. #34
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    Bernier: Preakness analysis

    The Preakness Stakes historically has been dominated by runners exiting the Kentucky Derby, but this year a couple of new shooters present interesting cases if you are inclined to take a shot against the likely favorites.

    Chad Brown has accomplished a lot in his career, but a victory in an American classic has eluded him. That could change Saturday, when he sends out CLOUD COMPUTING in the Preakness. Cloud Computing is a lightly raced son of Maclean’s Music out of an A.P. Indy mare, and it’s safe to assume that his best racing is ahead of him. His tactical speed should allow Javier Castellano to position Cloud Computing just off the likely pacesetters, Conquest Mo Money and ALWAYS DREAMING, obtaining the ideal stalking trip.

    Always Dreaming was a deserving winner of the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago and deserves to be the overwhelming favorite in the Preakness. Todd Pletcher is one of the greatest trainers we’ve ever seen in North American racing, but his preference for giving horses time between starts shouldn’t be overlooked in a situation like this. Pletcher typically doesn’t wheel horses back in two weeks, and it’s something to consider with a horse who is likely to go off in the vicinity of 3-5. The best thing about Always Dreaming is his early speed; he’s obviously dangerous if left alone on the lead, but he might be even better sitting off a target.

    CLASSIC EMPIRE endured a difficult trip in the Kentucky Derby, and a more favorable situation Saturday could see last year’s 2-year-old male champion regain his best form. After being sideswiped exiting the starting gate at Churchill Downs, this Mark Casse trainee was bounced around in and among horses throughout. After a mild bid turning for home, he flattened out down the lane, understandably tiring. Without much early pace signed on in the Preakness, expect Julien Leparoux to have Classic Empire much closer to the pace from the moment the gates break. From a wagering perspective, he appears to be a clear-cut second choice, possibly around 2-1 at post time.

    LOOKIN AT LEE is one of the more honest horses in this year’s Preakness. Through his first 10 starts, Lookin At Lee has never regressed on the Beyer Speed Figure scale, steadily improving in each start. A true one-run closer, this son of 2010 Preakness winner Lookin At Lucky received a masterful ride from Corey Lanerie in the Derby, scraping the paint the entire way before angling out late to finish a strong second. A less-advantageous pace scenario appears likely here, but it would be dangerous to leave him off your exotic tickets.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

  5. #35
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    King: Preakness 2017 analysis

    Kentucky Derby winners often are well backed in the Preakness, but they have been deserving of their mutuel support. Ten of the last 20 Preakness Stakes have been won by the Derby winner, with seven other Preakness winners being beaten runners from the Derby.

    ALWAYS DREAMING was dominant in the winning the Derby, albeit with a smooth trip, but as a horse with controllable speed (at least in the afternoons), that isn’t unusual. Sure, he is a keen horse in the mornings, but it seems best to attribute that to him simply being a good-feeling horse.

    There is always a chance of regression with a horse racing on two weeks’ rest, but in watching this year’s Derby runners train on video leading into the Preakness, Always Dreaming seems like the horse with the most energy and the one most likely to run to his full potential.

    With less speed and top-to-bottom quality in the Preakness, look for Always Dreaming to win and head to New York for a chance at the Triple Crown.

    HENCE did nothing in the Kentucky Derby, running 11th when trying to rally unsuccessfully on a sloppy track. Perhaps he also bounced after a lifetime best in the Sunland Park Derby, a race that was head-and-shoulders better than his prior efforts. He makes a good physical impression, and trainer Steve Asmussen has kept the faith to run him in the Preakness despite that flat effort. That confidence encourages me that a rebound could be forthcoming.

    CLASSIC EMPIRE is the second most likely winner behind Always Dreaming, based on his running fourth in the Derby after getting hammered early and shuffled back, but he is the third selection because he offers little value as the second choice in the betting, particularly if one likes Always Dreaming to win.

    Last year’s 2-year-old male champ who won the Arkansas Derby one start before the Kentucky Derby, Classic Empire appears to be back on his game after numerous setbacks early in the year. With a clean start, he should be more forwardly placed in the Preakness, racing among the top three or four early.

    CONQUEST MO MONEY acts like the best of the new shooters, having been first or second in all five of his starts, and he impressed by sticking around bravely to be the runner-up to Classic Empire in the Arkansas Derby after contesting the pace.

    As for Kentucky Derby runner-up Lookin At Lee, he is a play-against in this horseplayer’s opinion while coming off a dream come-from-behind trip in which he was on the rail for much of the Derby without any trouble in sight.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

  6. #36
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    Preakness: Conquest Mo Money, connections finally get their chance
    By Jim Dunleavy

    Conquest Mo Money, with trainer Miguel Hernandez at Pimlico, was supplemented to the Preakness and Belmont Stakes at a cost of $150,000.

    BALTIMORE – New Mexico horse owner and breeder Tom McKenna did the practically unheard of when he skipped the Kentucky Derby with Conquest Mo Money and let someone else take his spot in America’s most famous race. On Saturday, Conquest Mo Money will jump back into the pool as one of the longer prices in the Preakness.

    With runner-up efforts in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby and Grade 3 Sunland Derby, Conquest Mo Money accumulated 60 qualifying points for the Derby, tying him for 12th on the list and guaranteeing him a spot in the field. But McKenna did not think the Derby was in his horse’s best interest.

    “He came out of Arkansas okay, but he’d only started running at 3, and there were going to be horses in the Derby with a lot more experience than him,” McKenna said. “Plus, he had run in Arkansas only three weeks after Sunland and would have had to come back again in three weeks.”

    Conquest Mo Money was not an original or late nominee to the Triple Crown, and McKenna would have had to pay a $200,000 supplemental fee to make his horse eligible for the series prior to the Derby. He instead opted to pay a $150,000 supplement that covers the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.

    “The Derby decision was not hard for me when I thought of the horse,” McKenna said. “It was difficult because of all the people I disappointed.”

    McKenna has mixed emotions about the Kentucky Derby. He recognizes its importance but believes that 20 horses are too many for the Churchill Downs track to safely accommodate.

    “The Derby is a wonderful pageant,” he said. “It’s great for horse racing, and it’s great for the country, but I don’t think it’s so good for the horses.”

    McKenna and his wife, Sandy, own McKenna Thoroughbreds, a 1,200-acre breed-to-race operation in the parched, hardscrabble country of eastern New Mexico. Miguel Hernandez – a winner of more than 2,100 races as a jockey who won titles at Sunland, Ruidoso Downs, Zia Park, and the Sacramento fair meet in California – has been their private trainer since 2014.

    Jorge Carreno, a two-time leading rider at Turf Paradise, has ridden Conquest Mo Money in all five of his starts.

    “To pass the Derby was hard,” said Carreno, a 34-year-old native of Cocula, Mexico. “I mean, as a jockey, I watch those races all the time. But I think Mr. Tom made a smart, sharp move to skip it. I think the horse is getting better and better right now because we skipped the race.”

    Hernandez echoes Carreno’s sentiment.

    “Honestly, my dream was to go to the Kentucky Derby my whole life,” Hernandez said. “But after Mr. McKenna and I talked, I said, ‘You’re right, boss.’ ”

    Some amazing horses have come out of New Mexico over the years. In 2009, Mine That Bird shocked the world with a 50-1 upset in the Derby after having finished fourth in the Sunland Derby. He went on to finish second in the Preakness and third in the Belmont.

    Bold Ego, a rapid New Mexico-bred, finished second in the 1981 Preakness after a 10th in the Derby. And then there was Peppers Pride, who campaigned exclusively in her home state, winning all 19 of her races and $1 million from 2005-08.

    Conquest Mo Money is well on his way to joining the list. He won a one-mile Sunland Park maiden race in his debut, then the Riley Allison Derby by 11 lengths and the Mine That Bird Derby by two. He has since finished second in the Sunland Derby and was second, beaten a half-length by last year’s 2-year-old male champion, Classic Empire, in the Arkansas Derby.

    McKenna, who selects his own horses, enjoys a good dispersal sale. He purchased his most successful horse prior to Conquest Mo Money, the mare African Rose, for $7,500 out of the Bill and Corinne Heiligbrodt dispersal in 2011. African Rose has won 18 races and $585,000.

    McKenna bought six horses out of the Conquest Stables dispersal at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale last fall. The most expensive cost $43,000. The cheapest was Conquest Mo Money, who somehow slipped through the cracks for $8,500.

    Conquest Stables purchased the colt for $180,000 at the 2015 Saratoga New York-bred sale of preferred yearlings. The son of Uncle Mo and the Seeking the Gold mare Stirring worked four times at 2 but never started. He has earned $508,000 this year.

    “How did I buy him for $8,500? I have no idea,” McKenna said. “Maybe the auctioneer had a brain short and just dropped the hammer. There were live bids. I really don’t know how I got him. I bought a filly for $43,000, and I probably would have gone up to that same figure for him.”

    The McKennas, Hernandez, and Carreno will be the new kids on the block when they make their first trip to Pimlico this week. They all have had successful careers, albeit not on the national stage.

    McKenna, 81, has won 285 races under the stable name Judge Lanier Racing since 2004. He said his earlier business ventures included retail, wholesale, grocery, real estate, and farming and ranching.

    “I’ve flown airplanes, and I’ve raced cars,” he said. “I like looking forward to the next challenge.”

    Hernandez, 51, began his riding career in 1984 at the Hipodromo de las Americas in his hometown of Mexico City. He later moved on to Caliente in Tijuana, then rode in California before finding success at Turf Paradise and on the New Mexico circuit.

    Hernandez’s riding career came to an abrupt end when he broke his back in a spill at Ruidoso in 2013.

    “When I was in the hospital, Mr. McKenna called me and said, ‘Miguel, you will have a job, don’t worry about anything,’ ” Hernandez said. “I think he knew I would never ride again before I did. I didn’t know what he had in mind.”

    When Hernandez was ready, McKenna hired him as his private trainer. Since December 2014, they have won 102 races together. Despite never having trained before, Hernandez has a 17 percent win average.

    McKenna said he decided to find a private trainer before Hernandez was injured, partly so he could have more say over how his horses were handled.

    “I have trained all sort of horses myself – performance horses, working horses,” McKenna said. “I’ve traded horses with the Indians. I like to train horses as individuals, and that is very difficult to do with a public trainer. It’s more of a cookie-cutter situation.”

    McKenna said he wanted a trainer whom “I could start out like a 2-year-old colt – someone I could teach my way.”

    Hernandez fit the bill, and McKenna thought he had promise.

    “I always liked Miguel and his wife, Graciela,” McKenna said. “I knew he had talent and a lot of brains.”

    Hernandez said Conquest Mo Money did not impress him in his training at first.

    “He’s one of the lazy ones,” Hernandez said. “I worked him with another horse of mine, Oh So Regal, and the other horse kept beating him. I didn’t think he was a stakes horse. But when I worked him out of the gate, he was totally different. He beat the other horse easy.”

    McKenna, Hernandez, and Carreno are based at Prairie Meadows for the first time this summer. Racing in New Mexico is under way at SunRay Park in Farmington.

    “At Farmington this time of year, there is no money,” Hernandez said. “We narrowed it down to Minnesota or Prairie Meadows and decided to come here.”

    Carreno, a winner of more than 1,300 races who has ridden at Canterbury Park in Minnesota the last three summers, wasn’t about to let Conquest Mo Money out of his sight and went along with the plan.

    “He’s the best horse I’ve ever been on,” Carreno said. “Every jockey spends his whole career looking for a horse like this.”

    Carreno feels lucky to still be a jockey. Like Hernandez, he broke his back, getting injured in a spill at Turf Paradise in December 2015, and he was out of action until the following May.

    “I pushed myself to come back from that injury,” Carreno said. “I feel that now is my time. I am so happy to be at the track and around the horses. I just want to give my best for everyone.”

    Conquest Mo Money has worked three times at Prairie Meadows since the Arkansas Derby. Carreno said he was pleased with Conquest Mo Money’s half-mile workout May 12 but that the horse’s serious Preakness work came the week before, when he breezed six furlongs in 1:14.20.

    “He worked comfortably without me asking for anything,” Carreno said. “I was excited about the work.”

    Hernandez also is encouraged by Conquest Mo Money’s training and is confident about his chances in the Preakness.

    “It is not going to be easy, but he’s training right,” Hernandez said. “I think he’s going to be pretty tough.”
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

  7. #37
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    Watchmaker: Hard to find fault in Always Dreaming
    By Mike Watchmaker


    Always Dreaming, with trainer Todd Pletcher at Pimlico, figures to get a good pace setup in Saturday's Preakness.

    Saturday’s Preakness might simply be a matter of Always Dreaming just being that much better than everyone else. He certainly was when he won the Kentucky Derby.

    Always Dreaming’s superiority in the Derby goes beyond the fact that after being involved in a strong early pace, he ran away from his 19 opponents to score by a decisive 2 3/4 lengths. A deeper appreciation of how good Always Dreaming really was two weeks ago is gained when you consider how soundly beaten the six others involved in the early pace were. Here they are, with their margins of defeat:

    Battle of Midway – 7 3/4 lengths

    Gormley – 14 1/4 lengths

    Irish War Cry – 16 1/2 lengths

    Fast and Accurate – 28 3/4 lengths

    Irap – 40 3/4 lengths

    State of Honor – 45 3/4 lengths

    This is the measure of how well Always Dreaming ran in the Derby. You needed a search party to find everyone else who was around him early, and yet he won off.

    The scary thing is that there is far less pace pressure for Always Dreaming in the Preakness. Conquest Mo Money, a game second in the Arkansas Derby after being with a strong early pace, has some speed. But after that? Classic Empire and Cloud Computing are capable of showing positional speed, but neither is what you would call a true speed horse. Every other horse in this Preakness is a deep closer.

    Those digging for Preakness vulnerabilities in Always Dreaming might note that he won the Derby on the sort of wet track he will not see Saturday. I feel that’s the wrong place to look. Five of the last seven wet-track Kentucky Derby winners came back to finish first or second on a fast track in the Preakness. And it’s not like Always Dreaming is a wet-track specialist. The Derby was his first start on an off track, and he romped on dry tracks in his first three starts this year, including a five-length blowout score in the Florida Derby.

    One aspect worth thinking about is Todd Pletcher, Always Dreaming’s trainer, and specifically Pletcher’s record on quick turnarounds like the 14 days between the Derby and Preakness.

    Pletcher is a mortal lock to be a first-ballot inductee into the Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible in 2021. He is so good at so many aspects of his craft. But one thing Pletcher hardly ever does is run horses back as quickly as the Derby and Preakness require. It might or might not be a coincidence, but the recent wet-track Derby winner who fared the worst in the Preakness was Super Saver, Pletcher’s only other Derby winner. Super Saver finished eighth in Baltimore, beaten almost 12 lengths.

    Let’s look closer. According to DRF Formulator, over the past five years through last week, Pletcher had 5,210 starts and won 1,243 of them (an amazing 24 percent). However, only 29 of those 5,210 starts (a microscopic 0.5 percent) were with horses going long on dirt with just 10 to 16 days between starts (I extended the days between starts slightly to get a larger sample size). Five of those horses won (17 percent) for an ROI of $0.81.

    Only six of those 29 starts came in graded stakes going long on dirt off the same 10- to 16-day turnaround. Two of those starters won – San Pablo off the full 16 days at 4-5 in the 2012 Iselin and Unlimited Budget off 15 days at even-money in the 2012 Demoiselle.

    Narrowing down this search to Grade 1 races, Pletcher is 0 for 2 over the last five years – Caixa Eletronica finished eighth, beaten 13 1/2 lengths, at 13-1 in the 2012 Whitney, and Dontbetwithbruno finished sixth, beaten 28 1/4 lengths, albeit at 66-1, in the 2015 Haskell.

    Should the fact that Pletcher almost never runs top horses back in two weeks put you off Always Dreaming if you otherwise like him? It doesn’t for me. Just because Pletcher doesn’t do this, iffy results from a small sample size don’t mean he can’t do this. Besides, Always Dreaming is a different individual with a much more favorable pace setup in the Preakness than in the Derby, which he won so decisively. That’s the deciding factor for me.

    I think Classic Empire might well complete a tiny Preakness exacta. Classic Empire’s fourth in the Derby was remarkable considering the combination of his brutal trip and his previously having only one representative outing in five months.

    Always Dreaming and Classic Empire are the only two I will use in the Preakness in multirace wagers, but I’ll also use Conquest Mo Money and Gunnevera underneath in vertical wagers. An anticipated deliberate pace could help Conquest Mo Money get a piece, and I’m hoping that Gunnevera didn’t like the track in the Derby, though he might also be tailing off.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    King: New shooters offer most value in exotics
    By Byron King


    Cloud Computing skipped the Kentucky Derby in favor of a start in the Preakness.
    When a fresh face to the Triple Crown arrives on the scene at the Preakness, there is always a degree of interest, with people wondering, “Is this perhaps the horse who can beat the Kentucky Derby winner?”

    Yet far more often than not over the past 20 years, these new shooters have been horses to avoid in the win betting for the Preakness. Since 1997, just three Preakness winners did not race in the Kentucky Derby: Red Bullet in 2000, Bernardini in 2006, and the filly Rachel Alexandra in 2009.

    It has been the Derby winners and, to a lesser degree, losers in the Derby who have fared best. The Derby winner has won 10 of the past 20 Preakness Stakes, with horses who lost in the Derby winning seven times over that period.

    That is not to suggest that these new shooters should be entirely dismissed. They have blown up the exotics in recent years by cracking the top three, several times at large prices.

    Cherry Wine split the victorious Exaggerator and Derby winner and third-place Nyquist in finishing second at 17-1 odds last year; Tale of Verve and Divining Rod ran second and third behind American Pharoah at 28-1 and 12-1 in 2015; and in 2014, Social Inclusion finished third behind California Chrome as the 5-1 second choice.

    So, knowing the potential value that a top-three finish from a new shooter to the Triple Crown could add to Preakness gimmicks, let’s examine the fresh additions to the Triple Crown.

    Cloud Computing


    He is the least-experienced entrant, having made just three starts, all at Aqueduct, with his most recent finish being a third place in the Wood Memorial. It was partially for this reason that his trainer, 2016 Eclipse Award winner Chad Brown, opted to bypass the Kentucky Derby and point to the Preakness, along with the fact that owners Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence had Practical Joke for the Derby, in which he ran fifth.

    Cloud Computing seems to have upside, so much so that Javier Castellano jumped off Gunnevera, whom he rode to be seventh in the Derby, in favor of this colt (though he often does ride for this barn).

    The form from Cloud Computing’s two stakes races has not held up well, with Wood Memorial winner Irish War Cry running 10th in the Derby and J Boys Echo, who defeated Cloud Computing in the preceding Gotham Stakes, running 15th in Louisville.

    Conquest Mo Money

    A speedy colt purchased for a mere $8,500 at the Conquest Stable dispersal in November at Keeneland, he has won three races and placed in two others while earning $508,900. No wonder owner Judge Lanier Racing is willing to put up a $150,000 supplemental fee to run him in the Preakness.

    Although his highest Beyer Speed Figures, a 93 for a second in the Arkansas Derby and a 91 for another runner-up finish in the Sunland Park Derby, are moderate at best, the form from the Arkansas Derby held up in Louisville. The winner, Classic Empire, ran fourth in the Kentucky Derby after early trouble, and third-place Lookin At Lee rallied to be second.

    Multiplier


    He was purchased privately after a determined victory in the April 22 Illinois Derby, in which he ran down the favored Hedge Fund after that one had spurted away at the top of the stretch. Even against a mediocre graded-stakes cast, it represented an encouraging victory from this still-developing 3-year-old, who one start earlier won a maiden race in this third race at Fair Grounds.

    Speed-figure handicappers won’t be as enthused about his chances since his top Beyer is just an 88 and others in this field such as Always Dreaming and Classic Empire have each run a 102 in their most significant victories.

    Senior Investment

    He came rolling late to win the 1 1/16-mile Lexington Stakes on April 15 at Keeneland, making up 11 lengths over the second half of the race, including four lengths in the final furlong. Now, he gets an extra furlong in which to race in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness.

    Although he turned in an improved effort in winning the Lexington, that race did not draw the cream of the 3-year-old crop, and his victory might not have come at all if the third-place finisher in the Lexington, No Dozing, had not experienced a rough trip that seemingly cost him more than the neck he was beaten.

    One start before the Lexington, Senior Investment was sixth in his only other stakes race, the Louisiana Derby, a race from which the one-two finishers – Girvin and Patch – came back to be rear-half finishers in the Kentucky Derby.

    Term of Art

    Following a seventh in the Santa Anita Derby, in which a grueling pace would have figured to play to his closing style and make him a factor, he probably will be the longest shot in the Preakness at odds of 30-1 or higher.

    Even if the Santa Anita Derby is excused, his earlier races this year do not suggest Preakness success. He kicked off the year with a fifth in the Sham Stakes, followed by a fourth in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes, and then was third in the San Felipe in his race before the Santa Anita Derby.

    Of those, his race in the San Felipe was his best, though he merely picked up the pieces to be third behind Mastery and Iliad while never a threat.
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    Preakness: Pletcher anything but crabby during rare Pimlico stay
    By Jay Privman


    Always Dreaming will be only the ninth horse trainer Todd Pletcher has entered in the Preakness.

    BALTIMORE – For a guy who hasn’t spent much time here over the years, Todd Pletcher sure is making up for it as he approaches the Preakness Stakes on Saturday with Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming.

    Pletcher has been at Pimlico for a week now, and his dinner choice has been as consistent and exacting as the way he approaches training every morning.

    “I’ve set a record for crab cakes – six days in a row,” Pletcher, obviously embracing the local culture, said Wednesday as he followed Always Dreaming to the track for his morning gallop. “I went to Maine last summer with the family just before Saratoga, and my goal was to eat lobster three days in a row. And I did.”

    While he dined well on the local crustaceans, Pletcher seemingly hasn't had a taste for the Preakness. But much like his misleading Derby stats – 1 for 45 going into this year – similarly misinterpreted is his lack of participation in the Preakness, by far the Triple Crown race in which he has appeared the least.

    After Always Dreaming and two other Pletcher runners competed in the Derby, he stood at 48 Derby runners, with two winners. He has run 22 horses in the Belmont Stakes, winning it twice. But Always Dreaming will be only the ninth horse he has run in the Preakness, a race he has yet to win.

    It’s not as though he has anything against the Preakness. Pletcher said circumstances have made the Belmont – in New York five weeks after the Derby – a preferred stop after the Derby for most of his horses, and that only a few who exited the Derby – like his prior Derby winner, Super Saver – merited coming back in just two weeks.

    “Our home base is Belmont Park, and we’ve taken our best shot at the Belmont, using the five weeks to prepare for that,” Pletcher said. “In a lot of cases, we felt they needed more time to recover,” which, he said, made the Preakness too quick an option following the Derby.

    Always Dreaming will have nine rivals in this Preakness. Entries were due on Wednesday, and there were no surprises, with Classic Empire, Cloud Computing, Conquest Mo Money, Gunnevera, Hence, Lookin At Lee, Multiplier, Senior Investment, and Term of Art entered against him. The draw took place after this edition was printed.

    Always Dreaming will be the first Derby runner Pletcher has run in the Preakness since Super Saver in 2010. He’s had just two Preakness starters since then, Dance City in 2011 and Stradivari last year, but neither ran in the Derby.

    His Belmont record is strong. He has run 22 horses in 13 runnings and owns two wins, five seconds – including Destin, who lost by a nose last year – and two thirds.

    At the Preakness, only one of his eight runners has finished in the money, that being Impeachment, his first starter, who was third in 2000. Super Saver was eighth in his Preakness, and Pletcher said his experience with that colt is being incorporated into his preparation of Always Dreaming.

    “If I had a do-over with Super Saver, I wouldn’t breeze him at all,” said Pletcher, who chose not to give Always Dreaming a workout in between the Derby and Preakness. “The two weeks is a quick turnaround, and sometimes you don’t know until they get in the stretch and you see what you have in reserve.”

    On Wednesday, Always Dreaming was giving off the right signals that the Derby had not taken a toll on him. He galloped with enthusiasm, without the moments of aggressiveness he displayed coming into the Derby. As he picked up speed as he came to the close of his 1 1/2-mile gallop under exercise rider Nick Bush, Pletcher, watching along the track apron, said what looked apparent on the track. “He’s doing great,” he said.

    “He got to the eighth pole, and I said, ‘All right, buddy, it’s time to ease up,’ ” Bush said.

    Wednesday marked the eighth morning Always Dreaming had spent on the track here. His arrival on the heels of the Derby was plotted by Pletcher to try to guard against the behavior he showed at Churchill Downs.

    “It was a pretty quiet setting the first seven or eight days here, so we’ve been able to stand him in the gate, paddock school, get it all done,” Pletcher said.

    The schedule will keep Pletcher at Pimlico for 1 1/2 weeks, but it’s a small price to pay for having a Derby winner seeking to keep his Triple Crown hopes alive.

    Asked if it felt weird being here this long, Pletcher cracked, “Yeah, but it would have felt weirder not being here.”
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    Lookin At Lee giving owners a thrill
    By Nicole Russo

    Lookin At Lee became the first horse to hit the board in the Derby from post 1 since 1988.

    Drawing the dreaded rail post in the cavalry charge that is the Kentucky Derby is a daunting prospect for more reasons than are obvious at first glance. That became apparent to Lookin At Lee, who began the May 6 Derby from post 1, and his trainer, Steve Asmussen.

    “You know the statistics from the 1 hole, and you’ve watched the race and how troubling the crowding can be or whatever,” said Asmussen. “I did not consider the lack of room for the horse individually in the paddock to saddle. You had to move people out just to get him in it to saddle. That was a bit surprising. But Lookin At Lee was the perfect horse for it. He hung out there, waited his turn, and was ready to go when they called upon him.

    “On normal days, you don’t saddle [the No. 1 horse] until about three or four stalls down. The outriders’ horses are in the first few spots, and you’re down a ways. You don’t use all 20 stalls except for the Derby. But the 1 hole for the Derby, with the [paddock] gate right there and the amount of people, the celebrity making the ‘riders up’ call, and all the camera crews are directly in front of the horse in the 1. It takes a good personality – Lookin At Lee’s temperament – for that not to alarm them a bit.”

    Not only did Lookin At Lee handle the prerace hoopla with aplomb, but under a rail-skimming ride from Corey Lanerie, he came on to finish second, 2 3/4 lengths behind Always Dreaming.

    With his effort, Lookin At Lee became the first horse since Risen Star (third in 1988) to finish on the board in the Kentucky Derby after breaking from the rail. Not even his own sire, two-time Eclipse Award champion Lookin At Lucky, could accomplish the feat, finishing sixth with a nightmare trip. Now, like Risen Star and Lookin At Lucky, Lookin At Lee will attempt to step forward with a victory in the Preakness Stakes. Risen Star also went on to romp in the Belmont Stakes.

    “We have no control of how the other horses run, but we always feel like he does his best,” Asmussen, who was visibly full of pride immediately after the Derby, said this week.

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    Lookin At Lee is the best runner to date for the fairly new ownership group L and N Racing, based out of Tulsa, Okla. The four-way partnership comprises attorney Lee Levinson and his sons Andy and Michael, accounting for the ‘L’ in the moniker, and prosecutor Don Nelson, a family friend of the Levinsons and the ‘N’ in the stable name. Lee Levinson, for whom Lookin At Lee is named, dabbled in Thoroughbred ownership approximately 25 years ago but didn’t have the resources to invest in the sport at a high level. He recommitted to the sport by forming the new partnership about two years ago, with L and N starting its first horse in June 2015.

    “I got to the stage in life that I didn’t mind spending some money to try to do what I always wanted to do,” Levinson said. “I wanted to do it the right way.”

    The right way included purchasing some youngsters during the elite Book 1 portion of the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale and turning them over to Asmussen – whom Lee Levinson met through fellow Tulsa attorney Clark Brewster, who also has horses with the trainer. One of those colts was the $60,000 purchase Hard to Impress, a full brother to Grade 1 winner Zo Impressive and a half to Grade 1 winner Zaftig. The colt won his maiden last week at Lone Star Park, becoming L and N’s first winner this year.

    The other colt, slightly more expensive at $70,000, was Lookin At Lee, who is out of the graded-stakes-placed Langfuhr mare Langara Lass.

    “Steve liked him very much,” Nelson said. “He said he was a steal. He thought he’d go for $150,000, $175,000. And Keith, his dad, he doesn’t say much. All he told me was, ‘Don, this colt here can run a little.’ ”

    Lookin At Lee, who received his early training at Keith Asmussen’s farm in Texas, quickly rewarded the investment by winning the Ellis Park Juvenile last August, becoming L and N’s first stakes winner. He followed up by finishing second in the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes to Not This Time and second in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity to Classic Empire; Classic Empire and Not This Time went on to sweep the exacta in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile – in which Lookin At Lee was fourth – with Classic Empire earning the divisional Eclipse Award.

    Lookin At Lee took the Arkansas route to the Kentucky Derby, finishing third in the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes, sixth in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes, and bouncing back to be third behind Classic Empire and Conquest Mo Money in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby. He gets another shot at those two as well as Always Dreaming on Saturday, carrying the colors of a partnership that is savoring its shot.

    “It’s a dream come true, to be totally honest,” Lee Levinson said. “Even if you buy good horses, your chances of getting one this good are not great. So, I realize what we have. It might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Who knows?”
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Black-Eyed Susan-Preakness double offered again

    BALTIMORE – The two-day wager linking the Black-Eyed Susan on Friday with the Preakness on Saturday is among the many exotic wagers being offered here this weekend. The double carries a $1 minimum.

    According to charts maintained by Pimlico, the first year for the two-day wager was 2003, when the Pimlico Special was the first leg in the double (over the years, the track has used both the Black-Eyed Susan and Pimlico Special as the lead-in race). Last year, $748,964 was handled on the two-day double, which returned $20.80 for a $2 bet on Go Maggie Go and Exaggerator.

    Other exotic wagers being offered on a 14-race Friday card include two 50-cent pick fives (races 2-6 and 7-11, with the last one offering a $300,000 pool guarantee), three 50-cent pick fours (races 3-6, 8-11, and 11-14), the 20-cent Rainbow 6 jackpot (races 6-11), and $1 super high fives and 10-cent superfectas on all permissible races. The Black-Eyed Susan ends several of the multirace wagers as race 11.
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    Gunnevera pleases Sano with gallop
    By Jim Dunleavy


    Gunnevera gallops under Victor O’Farell at Pimlico on Wednesday.

    BALTIMORE – Gunnevera tacked a three-furlong open gallop onto the end of his Wednesday morning gallop at Pimlico in his final serious work for the 142nd Preakness Stakes on Saturday.

    Gunnevera, the Fountain of Youth winner and seventh in the Kentucky Derby, came onto the track from the gap at the three-sixteenths pole at 6 a.m. and backtracked around the track to the finish line. He then galloped a leisurely 1 1/8 miles under 145-pound exercise rider Victor O’Farell before quickening his pace from the seven-eighths pole to the half-mile pole.

    David Grening of Daily Racing Form timed Gunnevera’s open gallop in 43.60 seconds.

    Trainer Antonio Sano was happy with the way Gunnevera quickened for his final three furlongs.

    “His work before the Derby was slower than I would have liked,” Sano said. “This was much better.”

    O’Farell thought the move showed that Gunnevera is handling the Pimlico racing surface well.

    “He went so easy today, and he finished strong,” O’Farell said. “He likes this track.”

    Gunnevera, a $16,000 Keeneland yearling purchase in 2015, is owned by Salomon del Valle. Gunnevera never reached contention in the Derby after a wide journey but is a three-time stakes winner who has earned more than $1.1 million. In addition to the Fountain of Youth, he won the Grade 2 Saratoga Special and the Grade 3 Delta Downs Jackpot last year.

    Alex Sano, 20, is the stable manager for his father. Sano, a sophomore at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, hopes to attend veterinary school after graduation, possibly at the University of Florida, and specialize in treating horses.
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    Lexington, Illinois Derby lose Triple Crown relevance
    By Nicole Russo


    Senior Investment gallops about 1 1/2 miles at Pimlico on Wednesday.

    In 1999, Charismatic upset the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland. Three years later, War Emblem posted a front-running score in the Illinois Derby at Sportsman’s Park. Both colts went on to capture the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, earning divisional titles – and in Charismatic’s case, Horse of the Year honors.

    However, those two colts were the last winners of those respective races to capture a Triple Crown event, and both stakes have been all but eliminated as meaningful Kentucky Derby preps. The Illinois Derby, now run at Hawthorne with Sportsman’s Park having been torn down, carries no qualifying points under the system enacted by Churchill Downs for the Derby in 2013; the Lexington, three weeks prior to the Derby, awards 10 points to the winner, making it a final chance for horses on the bubble.

    Both races have thus attempted to reposition themselves as preps for the final two legs of the Triple Crown, with Lexington winner Senior Investment and Illinois Derby winner Multiplier among the new challengers for Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes. Multiplier will be the third Illinois Derby winner to contest the Preakness in its four runnings since the points system was launched and will look to improve on Departing’s sixth in 2013 and Dynamic Impact’s seventh in 2014. The Illinois Derby was not held in 2016.

    Lexington winner Divining Rod finished third to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in the 2015 Preakness, while Collected was 10th last year. None of the aforementioned colts who emerged from the Lexington or Illinois Derby ran in the Kentucky Derby.

    “I think Churchill ought to add more points to [the Lexington] immediately, but that’s the way the ball bounced,” said Ken McPeek, the trainer of Senior Investment.

    Senior Investment had no Derby qualifying points other than the 10 from the Lexington, placing him outside even also-eligible range on the points list.

    In the last two decades, other Lexington winners to make an impact on the classics include Belmont winner Touch Gold (1997) and Proud Citizen (2002), second in the Derby and third in the Preakness. Illinois Derby winners Vision and Verse (1999) and Sweetnorthernsaint (2006) were second in the Belmont and Preakness, respectively; Musket Man (2009) was third in both the Derby and Preakness.

    Senior Investment and Multiplier, both of whom shipped from Keeneland on Tuesday, had an easy Wednesday morning at Pimlico. Senior Investment galloped about 1 1/2 miles. Multiplier, who arrived later the prior evening after a van ride, walked the shed row. Trainer Brendan Walsh said the colt handled the trip well.

    “I’ve never seen a horse as laid-back as him,” Walsh said.
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    Hovdey: ‘Big Money' has been shortchanged at the Preakness
    By Jay Hovdey

    Mike Smith will try for his second Preakness win with Gunnevera, seventh in the Kentucky Derby.

    Arrogate won’t be running until the summer. Unique Bella is on the shelf, and Mastery is still recovering from surgery. Songbird is close to a race, though it isn’t certain where or when, and his Derby horse disappeared at Churchill Downs without a trace. What’s a rider to do in the meantime? Twiddle his thumbs? Take up macramé? Tackle his memoirs?

    How about win the Preakness?

    That would be fine with Mike Smith, the man they call “Big Money,” who has crafted an endgame to a brilliant career that should be the envy of athletes of all shapes and sizes. At 51, with 35 years in the books and close to 33,000 mounts, Smith has become the ultimate gun for hire. Need him to close the deal? He’s that guy over there in black with the business card that reads, “Have Tack – Will Travel.”

    Fountain of Youth winner Gunnevera gets the Smith touch on Saturday in the 142nd Preakness, and the Hall of Famer would like nothing more than to shock Always Dreaming, Classic Empire, and the rest of the field in the middle jewel of the Triple Crown.

    “We’re not without a chance,” Smith said. “He’s a nice colt, and I’ve had my eye on him for quite a while.”

    And his eye on the Preakness since 1984, when his first ride ended in a fifth-place finish aboard Pine Circle. The Preakness holds a special place in Smith’s heart as his first American classic win, accomplished in 1993 with the stretch-running Prairie Bayou.

    The ’93 Preakness victory also was the linchpin of Smith’s first of two consecutive national championships. In those seasons, he was riding around 1,500 horses a year, more than he’s ridden in the past three years combined. By the end of this week, Smith still will be shy of 100 rides this year.

    Yet there he is atop the purse standings thanks to the $7 million earned by Arrogate in the Pegasus World Cup and the $6 million he won in Dubai. Either of those juicy pots would represent a career year for most riders, but it was Smith who found himself in the right place on the right horse at the right time, which is pretty much how the rider and his agent, Brad Pegram, approach the challenge of marketing a professional athlete of a certain age. Through Tuesday, Smith had just 25 winners this year, 19 of them in stakes events, including three Grade 1s and eight Grade 2s.

    Few riders in history have thrived like Smith with his less-is-more routine. George Woolf did it. So did Eddie Arcaro near the end of his career, as well as Chris McCarron and Jerry Bailey. But it’s a tough act to pull off. Even the best riders lose patience with inactivity. They like winning races almost as much as winning money, and the dwindling lack of action takes its toll.

    “Even late in my career, I always had some really nice horses to ride,” said McCarron, who retired in 2002 with 7,141 winners. “That kept me going to the end. But I finally got to a point where my heart wasn’t in it. It’s tough enough riding against guys like Pincay, Delahoussaye, Stevens, and Smith when you’re 100 percent. If you’re 95 percent, you’ve got no shot.”

    McCarron noted that Smith currently works with three different trainers, each focused on an aspect of conditioning.

    “There is a psychological fitness that works along with physiological fitness,” McCarron said. “Mike has maintained that fitness in both body and mind.”

    Smith has been cruising along at his own pace long enough now that the rhythm is ingrained. The last time he rode as many as 600 horses in a season was 2009, the year he and Zenyatta won the Breeders’ Cup Classic. When Smith is not riding his half-dozen horses or so each week, he fills his mornings with intense workout sessions and his idle afternoons with a variety of diversions, not all of which are necessarily uplifting.

    “I’m watching a Clint Eastwood movie,” Smith said Monday afternoon, as Preakness week dawned. “It’s called ‘Blood Work.’ ”

    Okay, it was a diverting flick, minor Eastwood from his post-“Unforgiven” period. Anything to kill time until Tuesday’s gym session, Thursday’s lone ride at Santa Anita for Richard Mandella, followed by a cross-country flight and a mount for Joe Sharp on Friday in the Allaire duPont Distaff at Pimlico. On Saturday, Smith has rides in three stakes, including the Preakness aboard Gunnevera for trainer Antonio Sano. Horse and rider have never met before.

    “It never hurts to have ridden a horse before a big race,” Smith said. “But I’ve had a lot of success when I haven’t. I almost prefer it that way sometimes. You don’t go in with a lot of preconceived notions and just ride the race as it comes to you.”

    Although it holds a special place in Smith’s heart, because Prairie Bayou was a special horse, the Preakness has not been the rider’s lucky charm. Since his win in 1993, Smith has added the 2005 Kentucky Derby with Giacomo and a brace of Belmonts with Drosselmeyer in 2010 and Palace Malice in 2013, but no Preakness.

    Gunnevera, seventh in the Derby under Javier Castellano, will be Smith’s 16th Preakness ride since 1984, a total that puts him third on the list to Gary Stevens and Pat Day. A length or two here and there, and Smith could have been challenging Arcaro’s record of six victories in the classic, or at least Day’s five.

    In 2002, Kentucky Derby runner-up Proud Citizen ran his race again for Smith at Pimlico and was lapped on War Emblem and longshot Magic Weisner at the finish.

    In 2009, Smith picked up the mount on Derby winner Mine That Bird when Calvin Borel opted to ride Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness. Borel got it right, but Smith only missed by a length.

    In 2010, Smith and the scrappy Jackson Bend were 12th in the Derby, then came right back to finish a close third to Lookin At Lucky and First Dude, beaten three-quarters and a head.

    In 2011, Shackelford and Animal Kingdom put on a good show in the Preakness, but there was Smith right behind them at the end aboard longshot Astrology for Steve Asmussen.

    In 2012, using the same front-running strategy that nearly worked for them in the Derby, Smith thought he had the Preakness all but won with Bodemeister (the sire of Always Dreaming). Then, along came I’ll Have Another again to beat them by a neck.

    “They say speed holds at Pimlico, but I won the Preakness from off the pace, so I’m sure it changes year to year,” Smith said. “For sure, the horses with speed will have to go after Always Dreaming at some point for us to have a shot. I’ll just make that one run and try to catch ’em all.”

    The strategy is simple and often works, as it did for Prairie Bayou, the gelded son of Little Missouri who was favored in the 1993 Derby but finished second to Sea Hero. After winning the Preakness by half a length over Cherokee Run, Prairie Bayou suffered a fatal injury in the Belmont Stakes, which hit his rider hard. Fortunately, whenever he thinks about Prairie Bayou, the Preakness comes first to mind.

    “It was just a great race, man,” Smith said. “I mean, we were able to save ground, ease out, and go between horses. And even though he got hung out turning for home, he finished so strong.

    “I’ll always be grateful to him for that day,” Smith added. “Being my first win in a Triple Crown race, I was beside myself. I stayed on that cloud for a long time.”
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    Wise-guy weight off Hence's shoulders
    By Marty McGee


    Hence was considered a "wise guy" horse in the Kentucky Derby, but ended up 11th.

    BALTIMORE – Leading up to the Kentucky Derby, Hence was something of a “wise guy” horse, which made his trainer, Steve Asmussen, cringe. The trainer is a big believer in the Mush factor, a reference to Eddie Mush, a racetrack degenerate in the 1993 movie “A Bronx Tale.”

    Mush – gullible and colorful but mostly just obnoxious – was the personification of bad luck at the track. As the legend goes, the real-life Eddie Montanaro got his nickname because everything he touched turned to mush.

    “You never want the Mushes on your bandwagon,” Asmussen said with a laugh.

    Hence was 11th in the Derby – and with that, many of his backers have abandoned him. He no longer appears to be the Mush horse of the crop.

    “It ought to help his chances considerably,” said Asmussen, again laughing.
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