BALTIMORE — Even when a horse dominates the Kentucky Derby, there’s never a shortage of overmatched challengers waiting to take him on in the Preakness.
Trainer Todd Pletcher’s Always Dreaming couldn’t have been more impressive at Churchill Downs, but the next morning, trainer D. Wayne Lukas told Newsday: “Oh, don’t worry, they’ll be coming to line up against him.”
A few hours later, names began appearing.
Besides Derby also-rans Lookin At Lee (second), Classic Empire (fourth), Gunnevera (seventh) and Hence (11th), five longshots — Cloud Computing, Conquest Mo Money, Multiplier, Term of Art and Senior Investment — are expected to be entered Wednesday.
Horses who skip the Derby to await the Preakness are called “new shooters,” a reference to the craps table, and few roll anything but snake eyes. In the past 16 years, only Bernardini (2006) and the filly Rachel Alexandra (2009) won at Pimlico after passing on the Derby. Both times, there were unusual circumstances. Undefeated Derby hero Barbaro broke down in the Preakness, and Rachel was a superstar who also beat males in the Haskell and Woodward.
Chad Brown trains Cloud Computing, 1-for-3 lifetime and winless beyond 6 furlongs. He’s never faced a horse in Always Dreaming’s class and lost to Derby flops J Boys Echo (15th) and Irish War Cry (10th). Brown, a world-class horseman, knows his inexperienced colt is up against it, but owners Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence want to run.
“I think he deserves a shot,” Brown said. “The Derby winner is going to be hard to beat. But we’re just going to take our chance and hopefully he gets a good trip and likes the surface at Pimlico.
“He’s lightly raced, and that’s why we skipped the Derby. We thought he needed a bit more time. He’s come along fast, and we always thought he had a lot of talent. He needs to get the mile-and-three-sixteenth distance, which I’m confident he can.
“I think the six weeks between races will play into his favor.”
Not likely, because recent history says the extra rest will be a major negative. Fresh horses excel in the Belmont Stakes, but not in the Preakness. Ten of the past 11 winners of “The Test of the Champion” sat out the Preakness, with Triple Crown champion American Pharoah the exception.
Kenny McPeek trains Senior Investment, who took the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland. He needed four races to break his maiden, and in his only other stakes he ran sixth in a weak Louisiana Derby, whose 1-2 finishers, Girvin and Patch, were 13th and 14th, respectively at Churchill.
“Well, he’s a horse that every time you lead him over there he gives a really good effort,” McPeek said. “And the way he came running late in the Lexington was great fun. He gets a little bit more distance in this spot, and he’s doing really well right now.
“A lot of things can happen in these kinds of races, which I think I [proved] a few years back with Sarava.”
McPeek was referencing the 2002 Belmont, when Sarava paid a record $142.50. If Senior Investment were to win Saturday, it would qualify as another historic upset.
“Whether this is that type of horse remains to be seen,” McPeek said, “but he’s a nice horse and he deserves a chance.”
Tom and Sandra McKenna, who own Conquest Mo Money, feel the same way about the New York-bred they snagged last November for a measly $8,500 at Conquest Stable’s dispersal sale. He’s been a four-legged ATM for them, earning $508,900 in five starts. The McKennas are playing with big stacks of house money, so they forked over $150,000 to supplement him to the Preakness because he wasn’t nominated to the Triple Crown.
“Sunland Park, Oaklawn, here, he’s taking us everywhere,” trainer Miguel Hernandez said.
But almost certainly not to the winner’s circle on Saturday.
142nd Preakness Stakes
1 3/16 miles
Pimlico Race Course, Baltimore
NBC, 5-7 p.m.
Post time: 6:45