After an impressive victory at the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago, Always Dreaming is the horse overwhelmingly favored to win the Preakness on Saturday. But a few of his equine counterparts could present a challenge as he attempts to take down this second leg of the Triple Crown.
The 3-year-old colt won the Derby at Churchill Downs by nearly three lengths, and many odds makers believe he will do the same at Pimlico Racetrack in Baltimore, site of the Preakness. Going into it, Always Dreaming is the odds-on favorite, with 4/5 odds of winning. The next closest horse behind him is Classic Empire, whose betting line opens at 3/1.
Always Dreaming’s trainer Todd Pletcher told the Baltimore Sun he believes he has a special animal capable of winning the Triple Crown.
“I think first and foremost, you need talent, and he has that,” Pletcher said. “But he’s given us the indication, with the way he’s finished his races and the way he galloped out at the Derby that a mile and a half is within his range.”
The Kentucky Derby runs on a 1 1/4-mile track. While the Preakness is a shorter 1 3/16 mile, the Belmont Stakes is a 1.5-mile race
The opening line for the Preakness has two horses close in odds. The next best possible contender, according to betting lines, is Lookin at Lee, who placed second in the Kentucky Derby. His odds start at 10/1.
The other horses in this race that also ran in the Derby include Classic Empire, Gunnevera (15/1), and Hence (20/1). Only six times in the race’s previous 141 runnings has the winner been a horse that didn’t run in the Kentucky Derby.
One horse that many thought would make a nice bet was Royal Mo. The horse was an alternate at the Derby and a 12/1 shot for the Preakness, but suffered a career-ending injury during a workout on Sunday.
Historically Long Odds
Always Dreaming has won his last four races. But the current frontrunner is hardly a lock.
First, neither jockey John Velazquez nor trainer Pletcher have won on this track, despite having success in other Triple Crown events.
Second, Always Dreaming’s usual rest time is a month, but on Saturday he’ll be running after only a two-week break.
Third, winning the Triple Crown is hard. American Pharaoh did it two years ago, but before that you have to go back to 1978 and Affirmed for a horse that won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes all in the same year.
The track at Pimlico probably won’t be sloppy like it was in Louisville either, and a shorter, drier surface doesn’t necessarily work in the favorite’s favor. Gunnevera, considered a speed horse, couldn’t overcome the mud two weeks ago, but will have a much better chance to pull off an upset under dryer conditions.
The current forecast for Baltimore calls for cooler and less humid weather than usual, with a mix of sun and clouds, and a high temperature in the low 70s.