Preakness a preview to contentious summer season
by DICK POWELL
The best thing about this year's Preakness (G1) is that it is anything you want it to be.
On Friday, the track was very wet from an afternoon thunderstorm and it rained hard enough overnight that the Pimlico main track was muddy for much of the day. It eventually was upgraded to "Good" then was listed as "Fast" for the 142nd running for the Black-Eyed Susans.
I felt that the track became tiring as it dried out and was certainly against Kentucky Derby (G1) winner ALWAYS DREAMING. Stuck on the inside when CLASSIC EMPIRE was used hard from the start, those two dueled for the lead for the first six furlongs of the race and Always Dreaming began to tire on the far turn. It was not to be and he gave it up without much of a fight.
Some felt that Todd Pletcher hates to run back on two weeks rest and the record not only shows that but how few starters he has had with short rest. Pletcher had Always Dreaming primed for the Derby but how would he do two weeks later? Plus, was the Derby win a result of a sloppy track that favored speed and inside paths? It looked like Pimlico on Saturday, late in the afternoon, was the exact opposite.
When Always Dreaming tired on the far turn, Julien Leparoux opened up aboard Classic Empire. The victim of a nightmare trip in the Derby, he was making his own luck in the Preakness and opened up a commanding lead when Always Dreaming dropped out of it.
Leparoux separated from the rest of the field and on another track it might have been the winning move. But, I feel the track was tiring by then. You can even see dirt kicking up as the track was not watered. On Friday, Classic Empire would have been home free. Instead, he was in big trouble and Leparoux has been criticized for moving too soon. I don't buy it since I never mind a rider trying to open up daylight between him and his rivals.
But here came CLOUD COMPUTING. Sitting third in the pocket for most of the trip, Javier Castellano pulled him out at the top of the stretch and set sail after Classic Empire. He caught him inside the sixteenth pole and surged ahead nearing the wire. It was a bitter defeat for Classic Empire after his bad luck in the Derby as he did everything but win.
Cloud Computing was supposed to be at a disadvantage since most Preakness winners ran in the Derby but he was wisely kept on the sidelines as trainer Chad Brown ran PRACTICAL JOKE for the same owner combination of Seth Klaraman and Bill Lawrence.
With only three starts going into the Preakness, I wasn't sold on Cloud Computing since he could not keep up with IRISH WAR CRY in the Wood Memorial (G2) and Irish War Cry came back to run poorly in the Derby.
But the six weeks rest seems to have done him a world of good and coupled with a perfect trip and masterful ride from Javier Castellano, it was just enough.
At this point, I would be hard pressed to figure out who Chad Brown's best three-year-old colt is. Practical Joke was fifth in the Derby and that was from post 19. Cloud Computing won the Preakness and TIMELINE is undefeated in three starts and won the Peter Pan (G3) by three lengths last time out. Not sure if we will see any of them in the upcoming Belmont S. (G1).
While the Belmont looks like it is coming up extremely weak, there will be no shortage of horses that will show up for the Haskell Invitational (G1) at the end of July as well as Jim Dandy (G2), Travers (G1) and Pennsylvania Derby (G1).
Not only will Chad Brown be loaded, but Todd Pletcher will at least have Always Dreaming, BATTALION RUNNER and MALAGACY for the summer. Graham Motion will have Irish War Cry, Mark Casse will be back with Classic Empire, and Jerry Hollendorfer loves to ship east so BATTLE OF MIDWAY could be in the mix.