05/17/2017 5:26PM

Beer: Preakness 2017 analysis

Barbara D. Livingston
Always Dreaming is a strong candidate to duplicate the performance he delivered in the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago.

As ALWAYS DREAMING makes his way to Pimlico for the second jewel in racing’s Triple Crown, it is worth looking back to where he started in order to predict what we may get from him Saturday.

With only two weeks between the Derby and Preakness, much has been made of trainer Todd Pletcher’s record on short rest. In short, it is not great. Pletcher has been in this position once before – his only other Derby winner, Super Saver, finished eighth in the Preakness as the favorite.

But Always Dreaming is not Super Saver, and he is a Derby winner who appears to have plenty going for him in Baltimore. In looking at the development of Always Dreaming, it is worth noting that he is not a typical classic contender from this barn.

First of all, he was not trained by Pletcher as a juvenile. He ran only twice last year, and while he didn’t win, he avoided the grind and did run a relatively fast race (88 Beyer Speed Figure in his second start) before being put away.

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Switched to Pletcher’s care for his 3-year-old campaign, he seemed to be kept under wraps, first going to Tampa Bay Downs to bury overmatched maidens and then going right into his available condition to post another easy win in a race where he was only asked to run for about an eighth of a mile.

He showed his class and his true talent when finally stepping up to take the Florida Derby. And he then dominated the Kentucky Derby field two weeks ago over a wet track.

Fastest on the way into the Preakness, Always Dreaming finds a field with little early speed to compromise his chances, and based on the way he has been handled to this point, he does not appear to have come all that close to finding his bottom yet.

The favorite figures to have the most to fear from last year’s juvenile male champ, CLASSIC EMPIRE. One of the few exiting the Derby with a legit excuse, he also is the one with a top figure to match the favorite. Since earning that 102 Beyer at last year’s Breeders’ Cup, he has earned figures of 87, 94, and 90 during a rocky 2017 campaign. He now finds himself in the position of having to prove that he is an improved 3-year-old. If he is, he may be the most likely upsetter, but it’s not exactly a given, and he is going to take plenty of money in this race.

GUNNEVERA needs a trip, but he is close to these with his best race, and it is easy enough to excuse his two most recent races – an impossible trip from a tough post in the Florida Derby and a wet track in a Derby that did not flatter his running style. Many will take Cloud Computing as the new shooter, but he exits a poor overall prep in the Wood Memorial. MULTIPLIER will offer much more value and may ultimately turn out to be just as good.