05/17/2017 3:20PM

King: Preakness 2017 analysis


Kentucky Derby winners often are well backed in the Preakness, but they have been deserving of their mutuel support. Ten of the last 20 Preakness Stakes have been won by the Derby winner, with seven other Preakness winners being beaten runners from the Derby.

ALWAYS DREAMING was dominant in the winning the Derby, albeit with a smooth trip, but as a horse with controllable speed (at least in the afternoons), that isn’t unusual. Sure, he is a keen horse in the mornings, but it seems best to attribute that to him simply being a good-feeling horse.

There is always a chance of regression with a horse racing on two weeks’ rest, but in watching this year’s Derby runners train on video leading into the Preakness, Always Dreaming seems like the horse with the most energy and the one most likely to run to his full potential.

With less speed and top-to-bottom quality in the Preakness, look for Always Dreaming to win and head to New York for a chance at the Triple Crown.

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HENCE did nothing in the Kentucky Derby, running 11th when trying to rally unsuccessfully on a sloppy track. Perhaps he also bounced after a lifetime best in the Sunland Park Derby, a race that was head-and-shoulders better than his prior efforts. He makes a good physical impression, and trainer Steve Asmussen has kept the faith to run him in the Preakness despite that flat effort. That confidence encourages me that a rebound could be forthcoming.

CLASSIC EMPIRE is the second most likely winner behind Always Dreaming, based on his running fourth in the Derby after getting hammered early and shuffled back, but he is the third selection because he offers little value as the second choice in the betting, particularly if one likes Always Dreaming to win.

Last year’s 2-year-old male champ who won the Arkansas Derby one start before the Kentucky Derby, Classic Empire appears to be back on his game after numerous setbacks early in the year. With a clean start, he should be more forwardly placed in the Preakness, racing among the top three or four early.

CONQUEST MO MONEY acts like the best of the new shooters, having been first or second in all five of his starts, and he impressed by sticking around bravely to be the runner-up to Classic Empire in the Arkansas Derby after contesting the pace.

As for Kentucky Derby runner-up Lookin At Lee, he is a play-against in this horseplayer’s opinion while coming off a dream come-from-behind trip in which he was on the rail for much of the Derby without any trouble in sight.