05/10/2017 1:06PM

Preakness Doings: Classic Empire returns to track

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Barbara D. Livingston
Classic Empire was roughed up at the start of the Kentucky Derby, but is fine for the Preakness, said assistant trainer Norman Casse.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Classic Empire, who figures as the second wagering choice in the 142nd Preakness on May 20 at Pimlico, went to the track for the first time since the Kentucky Derby and jogged as dawn was breaking Wednesday at Churchill Downs.

“He was awesome this morning,” Norman Casse, son and assistant of trainer Mark Casse, said as Classic Empire was cooling out.

Classic Empire, owned by John Oxley, finished a creditable fourth behind Always Dreaming in the Derby last Saturday at Churchill despite being roughed up badly at the start. The colt exited the race with an inflamed right eye and superficial leg scrapes.

“Everything is good with him,” Casse said. “We’re excited about taking him up there.”

Casse said Classic Empire will be vanned Sunday to Baltimore instead of being sent on a Tuesday charter flight.

“We didn’t want to wait quite that long,” he said. “We’ll go on and get up there and get settled.”

At Pimlico, Always Dreaming also was back in training for the first time since his 2 3/4-length Derby victory, jogging a once-around, clockwise mile early Wednesday under exercise rider Nick Bush, according to Pimlico publicity. Assistant trainer Ginny DePasquale was on hand, with trainer Todd Pletcher scheduled to arrive later Wednesday, ahead of Thursday training. Always Dreaming arrived at Pimlico on Tuesday following a flight from Louisville into Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

“Ginny said he was perfect – good energy, moving real well, happy, good bounce to his step,” Pletcher said at Belmont Park.

Back at Churchill, both of trainer Steve Asmussen’s Preakness contenders, Lookin At Lee and Hence, also went to the track for the first time since the Derby, in which they finished second and 11th over the sloppy track.

With Asmussen astride his stable pony, Lookin At Lee was in the first set to hit the track shortly after 6 a.m. Eastern. Hence was in the third set. Both had easy gallops of about a mile.

“They both came out of the race great,” said Asmussen. “From all I’ve seen and read, I’m very thankful for how everything turned out – not just for us, but for all the participants. The Churchill track crew did a fabulous job under very difficult circumstances.”

Asmussen said Lookin At Lee and Hence both will breeze a half-mile Monday at Churchill before being flown Tuesday. The Hall of Fame trainer said he intends to ship six or seven other horses for races on Preakness weekend at Pimlico.

Gunnevera, seventh in the Derby, trained for a second straight day at Churchill and is headed for Baltimore on Saturday, also by van.

Always Dreaming odds-on

Keith Feustle, now in his fourth year as the Pimlico oddsmaker, said he most likely will list Always Dreaming as a 4-5 program favorite when Preakness entries are drawn next Wednesday.

“There’s been an odds-on horse every year since I started making the line,” Feustle said, referring to California Chrome (2014), American Pharoah (2015), and Nyquist (2016). “Unless there’s a defection, I’ll make Classic Empire about 4-1, Lookin At Lee maybe 8-1, and the rest double digits.”

If the actual post-time price on Always Dreaming is below even-money, it will mark the fifth straight year for the Derby winner to be an odds-on favorite at Pimlico (Orb was 7-10 when fourth in 2013).

The most recent Preakness in which the favorite was higher than even-money was also the most recent time that the Derby winner was not favored. That was in 2012, when Bodemeister, the sire of Always Dreaming, was second at 8-5 behind Derby winner I’ll Have Another (3-1).

Rosario on Multiplier

Multiplier, one of six expected for the Preakness who did not run in the Derby, will have a new jockey for the Preakness in Joel Rosario. Jimmy Graham rode the colt to his narrow victory over Hedge Fund in the April 22 Illinois Derby, after which the colt was sold to Gary Barber, Adam Wachtel, and George Kerr. Brendan Walsh remains the trainer.

The other prospective Preakness starters who did not run in the Derby are Cloud Competing, Conquest Mo Money, Royal Mo, Senior Investment, and Term of Art.

Term of Art, trained by Doug O’Neill, was announced by Pimlico officials on Wednesday as the newest Preakness prospect. Owned by Calumet Farm, the Tiznow colt has won 2 of 9 starts and most recently finished seventh at 23-1 in the April 8 Santa Anita Derby. Jose Ortiz will ride.

“We think he’s a talented colt who deserves a chance in this big race,” O’Neill told Pimlico publicity.

– additional reporting by David Grening

PREAKNESS CONTENDERS
Horse Trainer Jockey Last Race/Finish
Always Dreaming    Todd Pletcher John Velazquez Kentucky Derby, 1st
Classic Empire Mark Casse Julien Leparoux Kentucky Derby, 4th
Cloud Computing     Chad Brown Javier Castellano Wood Memorial, 3rd
Conquest Mo Money Miguel Hernandez Jorge Carreno Arkansas Derby, 2nd
Gunnevera       Antonio Sano Mike Smith Kentucky Derby, 7th
Hence Steve Asmussen Florent Geroux Kentucky Derby, 11th
Lookin At Lee     Steve Asmussen Corey Lanerie Kentucky Derby, 2nd
Multiplier  Brendan Walsh Joel Rosario Illinois Derby, 1st
Royal Mo John Shirreffs Gary Stevens Santa Anita Derby, 3rd
Senior Investment Kenny McPeek Channing Hill Lexington Stakes, 1st
Term of Art Doug O'Neill Jose Ortiz Santa Anita Derby, 7th