05/17/2017 4:56PM

Brad Free: Preakness 2017 analysis

Barbara D. Livingston
With a better trip in the Preakness, Classic Empire can turn the tables on the Kentrucky Derby winner Always Dreeaming.

With a better trip two weeks ago, CLASSIC EMPIRE might have given Kentucky Derby winner ALWAYS DREAMING a battle. But the only luck Classic Empire had in the Derby was bad luck. He bobbled and was wiped out at the break, ran 75 feet farther than the winner (according to Trakus), and finished fourth. Classic Empire lost by less than nine lengths. Under the circumstances, it was an outstanding performance. With a better trip in the Preakness, Classic Empire can turn the tables on the Derby winner.

Classic Empire has more speed than he showed last out. Barring trouble at the break, he figures to be forwardly placed. He certainly will be closer to the front than his 12-length deficit last out. The champion 2-year-old male, compromised by an interrupted training pattern early this year, followed by a Grade 1 victory in April and a tough trip in the Derby, Classic Empire is a top colt due for a break. No knocks on the favorite, but the odds discrepancy makes Classic Empire the Preakness bet.

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Always Dreaming does everything right. He took it to the Derby field and ran them off their feet while running relatively fast, again. He earned a 102 Beyer Speed Figure, following a 97 in the Florida Derby. He has speed and is versatile. If a rival insists on the lead, he can sit second. He did it in the Derby. The knock on Always Dreaming is price. His odds are likely to be short. Derby winners have won three of the last five Preakness Stakes, but they won just one of the seven before that.

In a Preakness that this handicapper considers a two-horse affair, the play is the higher price, Classic Empire. And yet there are others, including a “longshot,” who could keep the favorite honest on the front end. That horse is CONQUEST MO MONEY.

Conquest Mo Money, supplemented for $150,000, has never run a bad race. He finished only a half-length behind Classic Empire in the Arkansas Derby, skipped the Kentucky Derby, and enters the Preakness fresh. His up-front style should play well in a field with just one other confirmed front-runner. Win or lose, he will press the favorite from the outside. If his odds remain double digits, Conquest Mo Money might be worth backing.

LOOKIN AT LEE, the Derby runner-up with a rail trip on the best part of the track, will roll late. He is a reliable stretch runner who probably requires a pace meltdown to win. Term of Art, Gunnevera, and Hence will close late. Cloud Computing is lightly raced, with a right to improve. However, he was soundly defeated in the Wood Memorial by Irish War Cry, who was dusted in the Derby.