Classic Empire won the Breeders’ Futurity and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile to establish himself as the best 2-year-old thoroughbred in the country in 2016, and the colt entered the 2017 Kentucky Derby off a victory in the Arkansas Derby. The only two of his seven races that weren’t victories could be explained away – he lost his jockey in one and had a foot abscess in the other.
Based on that record, Classic Empire received the status as the morning-line favorite for the Kentucky Derby. But bettors liked Always Dreaming better, even though the colt had only one stakes victory on his record – the Florida Derby.
Always Dreaming won the Kentucky Derby on May 6. Classic Empire finished fourth. But Classic Empire’s handlers don’t think their colt got a fair shake in the Kentucky Derby because he was roughed up when the 20-horse field broke from the gate.
In the 10-horse Preakness Stakes on Saturday, Always Dreaming and Classic Empire will break side-by-side – the Kentucky Derby champ from Post 4 and Classic Empire from Post 5.
“The champ’s been knocked down, and he’s going to come back and try to take back the crown,” said Mark Casse, Classic Empire’s trainer. “It’s got nothing to do with revenge because Always Dreaming did nothing wrong. He’s the champ, and we’re just going to go after him.”
The Preakness field can be divided neatly (and alphabetically) into two groups. Always Dreaming, Classic Empire, Cloud Computing and Conquest Mo Money are horses that like to run on pace or in a stalking position.
The rest of the field – Gunnevera, Hence, Lookin At Lee, Multiplier, Senior Investment and Term of Art — is composed of late runners.
Always Dreaming and Conquest Mo Money are the only speed horses in the race, so they’re expected to set the early pace, with Conquest Mo Money having to come from the 10th gate to get to the front.
In the Kentucky Derby, Always Dreaming settled off the flank of State of Honor, and when that colt fell away, he assumed the…