Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming will start alongside top rival Classic Empire in Saturday's Preakness, with the oddsmakers favorites expected to stage a superb side-by-side break from the gates.
"Always Dreaming is obviously a very good horse. We just want a fair shot at him," Classic Empire trainer Mark Casse said. "It could be interesting. They might go right at it from the start."
A 10-horse field will race 1 3/16ths of a mile at Pimlico in Baltimore, Maryland, in the second leg of US flat racing's Triple Crown, with Always Dreaming as a 4-5 favorite and starting from the fourth gate with Classic Empire, second choice at 3-1, just to the outside.
"I wasn't overly concerned about where we drew," said Todd Pletcher, Always Dreaming's trainer. "In a lot of races things change as soon as the gates open. We'll just let him run his race."
If Always Dreaming wins again, the horse could complete the treble at next month's Belmont Stakes. Only 12 horses have managed the feat, the most recent of them American Pharoah in 2015 to end a record drought that had lasted since 1978.
The dark colt, ridden by John Velazquez, won the Derby by 2 3/4 lengths two weeks ago at Churchill Downs over Lookin At Lee, who starts second from the outside on Saturday and ranks third with Preakness oddsmakers at 10-1.
Classic Empire, which had been a Derby favorite at 4-1, settled for fourth on a sloppy track and having him next door to Always Dreaming at the start is no worry for Pletcher.
"I don't think it matters, as long as everybody breaks cleanly," Pletcher said. "I would imagine that Classic Empire is going to keep an eye on where we are."
Count on Classic Empire jockey Julien Leparoux to be paying attention to the Derby winner from the start.
"Always Dreaming will be right there, but if we break running, we can be there, too," Casse said. "I like it a lot better being 5 and Always Dreaming being 4 than us being 4 and he's 5, because that puts Julien more in the driver's seat.
"If we break running and Always Dreaming doesn't, we may be on the lead. If Always Dreaming breaks running and we break running, if Julien thinks Always Dreaming is running too easy, he'll go up and engage him earlier. If he thinks he's running, he'll sit back."
Cloud Computing is fourth in the betting line at 12-1 followed by Conquest Mo Money and Gunnevera at 15-1, Hence at 20-1 and 30-1 longshots Multiplier, Term Of Art and Senior Investment.
© 2017 AFP