BALTIMORE — The longtime sportswriter said disgustedly, “Predicting horse races is impossible.” His hometown Preakness is the only one he ever covers, but that’s enough to convince him.
He got no argument Saturday after 13-1 shot Cloud Computing rallied to win it by a head. The Triple Crown fantasy of 6-5 favorite Always Dreaming evaporated as he retreated to eighth. So the New York Racing Association won’t have to cap the crowd at 90,000 for the June 10 Belmont Stakes, which will create no mainstream buzz.
The 149th “Test of the Champion” may be short on champions. Trainer Chad Brown said Sunday he would wait a week before deciding whether to run Cloud Computing, but Saturday he said he “never really struck me as a mile-and-a-half horse.” Expect him to skip the Belmont.
Todd Pletcher said he would take Always Dreaming to Elmont and regroup, with his Belmont status to be determined. Trainer Mark Casse said he’s considering running Classic Empire. Senior Investment and Lookin At Lee, third and fourth, respectively, in the Preakness, are in, Kenny McPeek and Steve Asmussen said. Also under consideration are Multiplier (sixth), Conquest Mo Money (seventh) and Brown’s Twisted Tom. Japan-based Epicharis and Derby also-rans Gormley and Irap are confirmed.
Cloud Computing detonated handicapping maxims that almost always apply to the Preakness. He’s only the second horse to win it in his fourth start, and his only victory was at 6 furlongs. He’s the third winner in 35 years to skip the Kentucky Derby, disproving the adage “New shooters don’t win the Preakness.”
Brown gave Cloud Computing six weeks off after he ran a distant third April 8 in the Wood Memorial. That layoff is a record for a Preakness winner in the modern era. Red Bullet took a five-week break in 2000, and in 1980 Codex had 34 days’ rest.
But sometimes rules are for fools, and the great ones can break them and succeed. Brown is a future Hall of Famer, and jockey Javier Castellano will be inducted in August. They strategized and made an unorthodox scheme come together while the racing world was watching.
“We had a plan, and we were sticking to the plan,” Castellano said. “It worked out great. We analyzed the race together, and I took it from there.”
They correctly figured Always Dreaming would lead and Classic Empire would press him hard. Pathfinder Castellano stalked in third, saving ground while never more than three lengths behind. When Always Dreaming quit midway on the far turn, Julien Leparoux kicked for home and Classic Empire opened a three-length lead at the eighth pole. After winning the duel, they would get stabbed from behind. Cloud Computing caught them about 50 yards from the finish and inched away. Even if you lost money, you had to admire what Brown and Castellano had pulled off.
Co-owner Seth Klarman grew up near Pimlico and learned how to handicap there. As a hedge fund manager, he excels at handicapping the world’s financial markets, with Forbes Magazine listing his personal fortune at $1.55 billion. He turned 60 Sunday, and the Preakness was the perfect gift.
“In my regular life I’m a long-term value investor, so we make patient, long-term investments for our clients,” Klarman said. “Horse racing is gambling. This is a risky undertaking, but it does provide one of the highest levels of excitement a person can have. It’s really been a thrill, and this is the highlight of our career as thoroughbred owners.”
How often does success blow away a billionaire? Yet with brilliant horsemen collaborating with a charter member of the 1 percent, maybe this Preakness wasn’t so shocking after all.