05/07/2017 12:47PM

Always Dreaming off to Pimlico ASAP, Pletcher says

Email
Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer Todd Pletcher said Sunday that Always Dreaming emerged well from Saturday's Kentucky Derby.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Always Dreaming, winner of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday at Churchill Downs, emerged from the race well and will be sent as soon as possible to Pimlico to prepare for the Preakness Stakes on May 20, trainer Todd Pletcher said Sunday morning.

Pletcher often ships-in late to Pimlico when he runs horses in the Preakness, but he has decided to go earlier than usual owing to the aggressive behavior Always Dreaming displayed in the mornings the week leading up to the Derby. As much as possible, he’d like to avoid having Always Dreaming become aggressive anew, and he believes taking him straight to Pimlico, rather than to Belmont Park – where he is now based – and then to Pimlico minimizes changes.

“I’d like to get him settled in there,” Pletcher said. “There’s not a lot of horses there. It’s a quiet environment.”

Pletcher said Always Dreaming would “gallop up to the Preakness,” with no workouts in between.

:: 2017 Preakness Advanced-Access Package

Early in Derby week Pletcher put draw reins on Always Dreaming because he had been galloping too aggressively for Pletcher's liking, and he also changed exercise riders, with Nick Bush replacing Adele Bellinger, who had been instrumental in Always Dreaming’s development over the winter while training at Palm Beach Downs in Florida. Pletcher said the draw reins would remain on for training, and Bush would remain in the saddle at Pimlico.

This will be the second time Pletcher has run a Derby winner in the Preakness, following Super Saver in 2010. Super Saver finished eighth.

“The biggest concern with Super Saver is that he had a terrific three weeks between the Arkansas Derby and the Kentucky Derby, but the two weeks between the [Kentucky] Derby and the Preakness he wasn’t the same at all. The two-week turnaround hurt him,” Pletcher said.

Always Dreaming had five weeks between the Florida Derby – which was his stakes debut – and the Kentucky Derby. He got a Beyer Speed Figure of 102 for his Derby win.

“We got to the Derby with a relatively fresh horse,” Pletcher said. “We took a conservative route – a maiden race at Tampa, an (allowance) on Fountain of Youth day, then the Florida Derby. He’s a fresh horse, but two weeks is a quick turnaround.”

His initial impressions of how Always Dreaming emerged from the Derby were positive.

“It didn’t appear to be a gut-wrenching race,” Pletcher said. “I was happy with the horse’s energy level coming in, and coming out.”

Pletcher said this Derby win was “awesome.”

“It’s still sinking in,” he said. “It’s a great, great feeling.

“The first one was special, but this was just as good or even better. We felt going in we had a good chance, had a few anxious moments during the week, happy it worked out.”

Now Always Dreaming moves on to Pimlico attempting to keep his four-race win streak, and his Triple Crown hopes, alive.

“It’s added pressure, but it’s welcome pressure,” Pletcher said.

Pletcher said his other two Derby runners, Tapwrit, who was sixth, and Patch, who was 14th, would skip the Preakness.

Among the Derby rivals who could face Always Dreaming again in the Preakness are Lookin At Lee, who finished second; Classic Empire, who was fourth, and possibly Gunnevera, who was seventh.

Steve Asmussen, who trains Lookin At Lee, said no plans had been made for his other two Derby runners – Hence, who was 11th, and Untrapped, who was 12th – but both were unlikely for the Preakness.

Classic Empire had some scrapes on his legs that assistant trainer Norm Casse described as “superficial”  that were incurred during a rough start when Irish War Cry slammed into McCraken, who in turn walloped Classic Empire.

“I’m proud of him,” said Casse, who described Classic Empire as “possible” for the Preakness.

“It’ll all be dictated on if he’s doing well,” Casse said. “But I’d like another shot at Always Dreaming, considering the rough trip.”

Classic Empire also had a swollen right eye, a result of being pelted by kickback from the sloppy track Saturday.

Horses who did not run in the Derby, but could go in the Preakness, include Cloud Computing, who was third in the Wood Memorial in his last start; Arkansas Derby runner-up Conquest Mo Money; Multiplier, the winner of the Illinois Derby; Senior Investment, the winner of the Lexington Stakes, and Royal Mo, who was entered in the Derby but did not scratch-in from the also-eligible list.

Royal Mo - third last time out in the Santa Anita Derby - worked five furlongs at Churchill Downs on Sunday morning in 1:05 for trainer John Shirreffs, who said Royal Mo, like Always Dreaming, would head to Pimlico as soon as possible. Gary Stevens has the mount, Shirreffs said.

Shirreffs said Gormley, who finished ninth in the Derby, would head home to California on Tuesday and bypass the Preakness.

“He’s fine,” Shirreffs said. “I don’t think he ran his best race, and he’s done that before. Whether it was the track or the crowd, I don’t know.”

Also on that flight back to California will be Battle of Midway, who was third in the Derby; Sonneteer, who was 16th; and Irap, who was 18th. All are bypassing the Preakness.

Practical Joke, who was fifth, likely will point to shorter races, trainer Chad Brown said.

McCraken, who finished eighth, had a puncture wound on the outside of his left hind ankle, which likely was caused by him colliding with Classic Empire at the start, trainer Ian Wilkes said.

“He’s walking sound,” Wilkes said. “Luckily he had bandages on. No Preakness, no Belmont, for him. We’ll regroup.”

Irish War Cry, who was 10th, is very doubtful for the Preakness, according to trainer Graham Motion, and far more likely to point for the Haskell, a race named for the father of owner Isabelle de Tomaso.

Girvin, who was 13th, and Fast and Accurate, who was 17th, also will skip the Preakness, according to their trainers, Joe Sharp and Mike Maker, respectively.

Horses who bypassed the Derby and at one time were being considered for the Preakness, but are now doubtful, include Malagacy and Three Rules.

--additional reporting by David Grening, Byron King, Nicole Russo, and Mike Welsch