05/17/2017 7:10PM

Welsch: Preakness analysis

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Despite giving his connections and supporters some anxious moments during training hours in the days leading up to the big event, ALWAYS DREAMING showed up cool and calm in the paddock, then validated the notion that he is the best of his division at the present time with a decisive victory in the Kentucky Derby.

Granted, he benefitted from a perfectly orchestrated trip under John Velazquez, but aside from the runner-up, who tripped out pretty darn well himself, the rest of the field was strung out far behind at the wire. And considering the manner in which he appears to have come out of the race, it’s hard to get past the notion that Always Dreaming will prevail again in the middle jewel of the Triple Crown.

HENCE came off too big a performance at Sunland Park and trained too well exiting that race not to get a mulligan after dropping far back early, fanning wide against the track bias, and eating so much mud on Derby Day. I’m expecting a major improvement with a little better racing luck, and he figures to offer some real value behind the odds-on favorite.

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CLASSIC EMPIRE ran huge after getting slammed at the start and hung out wide in the Derby, and as a result, he likely will be somewhat overbet in Saturday’s rematch with Always Dreaming. Obviously, his abundant talent and heart are not to be questioned, and it may be just a matter of whether he’ll be able to bounce back and move forward from two pretty taxing efforts while making his third start within just a five-week span.

LOOKIN AT LEE had a perfect trip in the Derby, hugging the rail, arguably the best part of the track, every step of the way under Corey Lanerie. He’s not likely to get that kind of dream run again on Saturday, although he shows up every time and certainly is hard to leave out for one of the minor awards in the gimmicks.

Cloud Computing is the most intriguing of the new faces. He ran against the grain of an inside-speed-biased strip in the Wood Memorial, although the race certainly wasn’t flattered by Irish War Cry’s failure to fire late in the Derby and runner-up Battalion Runner’s subsequent removal from consideration for the Derby. This lightly raced but extremely promising-looking sort is eligible to move forward from that experience, but I’m thinking his best days may lie further down the road.