Preakness 2017: Early Contenders to Watch on Always Dreaming's Triple Crown Bid

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistMay 8, 2017

Always Dreaming next focuses on the middle stretch of the Triple Crown journey.
Always Dreaming next focuses on the middle stretch of the Triple Crown journey.Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Whispers of a Triple Crown kicked up a matter of minutes after Always Dreaming blitzed the field at Churchill Downs and won the 2017 Kentucky Derby. 

Easier said than done, of course. The Bob Baffert-trained American Pharoah accomplished the historic feat in 2015, but before then the sporting world had not seen a Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

Based on the dominance of Always Dreaming on Saturday, the Todd Pletcher-trained colt might have a shot at pulling it off. Next is a quick turnaround to Pimlico, Baltimore, on May 20 for the 2017 Preakness Stakes.

First, here's a look at the Kentucky Derby results:

PositionHorseJockeyTrainerLengths
1Always DreamingJohn R. VelazquezTodd A. Pletcher-
2Lookin At LeeCorey LanerieSteven M. Asmussen2 3/4
3Battle of MidwayFlavien PratJerry Hollendorfer7 3/4
4Classic EmpireJulien R. LeparouxMark E. Casse8 3/4
5Practical JokeJoel RosarioChad C. Brown9 1/2
6TapwritJose L. OrtizTodd A. Pletcher10 1/4
7GunneveraJavier CastellanoAntonio Sano13 1/4
8McCrakenBrian Joseph Hernandez Jr.Ian R. Wilkes13 1/4
9GormleyVictor EspinozaJohn A. Shirreffs14 1/4
10Irish War CryRajiv MaraghH. Graham Motion16 1/2
11Hence Florent GerouxSteven M. Asmussen18 1/2
12UntrappedRicardo Santana Jr.Steven M. Asmussen19 1/4
13GirvinMike E. SmithJoe Sharp19 1/4
14PatchTyler GaffalioneTodd A. Pletcher20 3/4
15J Boys EchoLuis SaezDale L. Romans22 3/4
16SonneteerKent J. DesormeauxJ. Keith Desormeaux26
17Fast And Accurate Channing HillMichael J. Maker28 1/2
18IrapMario GutierrezDoug F. O'Neill40 1/2
19State of HonorJose LezcanoMark E. Casse45 1/2
20Thunder SnowChristophe SoumillonSaeed bin SuroorDNF
Source: NBCSports.com

Now let's take a look at the early odds surrounding the 2017 Preakness Stakes, courtesy of OddsShark:

HorseOdds
Always Dreaming1-1
Irish War Cry11-2
Classic Empire13-2
Looking At Lee11-1
Battle of Midway11-1
Cloud Computing14-1
Conquest Mo Money16-1
Gunnevera16-1
Malagacy16-1
Practical Joke18-1
OddsShark

According to that OddsShark tweet, Always Dreaming's Triple Crown odds boil down to interesting yes (3-1) or no (1-5) picks.

For now, a bet in the affirmative seems to make the most sense. Always Dreaming put on a dominant-looking sprint at Churchill Downs and gets an even shorter track at Pimlico, which checks in at 9.5 furlongs.

Though the field in Baltimore isn't set by any means, Always Dreaming could have an easier path there in large part because so many owners choose to withhold their horses from the event because of the quick two-week turnaround.

Balancing this, though, is the fact some owners skip the Kentucky Derby entirely for a better shot at winning the second or third leg of the Triple Crown.

LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 06: Jockey John Velazquez celebrates atop Always Dreaming #5 as they cross the finish line after winning the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 6, 2017 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Looking at the names provided by OddsShark so far, Cloud Computing is one to know. The Chad C. Brown-trained colt is an upstart with three races of note this year, including a third-placed finish at the Grade 2 Wood Memorial in April, where Kentucky Derby contender Irish War Cry took first place.

Another is the Miguel Hernandez-trained Conquest Mo Money, a colt with two wins in four attempts this year, finishing second behind Hence at the Grade 3 Sunland Derby and second behind Classic Empire at the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby.

Other colts putting on a quick turnaround will give Always Dreaming some problems as well. Kentucky Derby runner-up Looking At Lee has the speed to challenge again, and Classic Empirefourth-placed finish or notstill boasts a resume better than most and might do better over a shorter distance.

Still, on a quick turnaround, it's unwise to go against Always Dreaming. There weren't any post-race issues to speak of, and seasoned jockey John Velazquez offered some strong praise after the triumph, according to J.J. Hysell of InTheMoneyPost.com:

When it comes to the overarching Triple Crown outlook, the Belmont Stakes usually gives serious contenders a bigger problem than the Preakness Stakes. Rested competition and quick turnaround in Baltimore aside, the fact the Belmont checks in at 12 furlongs is where Triple Crown hopefuls usually get tripped up.

As for the Preakness, Pletcher already plans to get Always Dreaming to Baltimore by Monday or Tuesday instead of delaying the arrival as is the norm, per the Baltimore Sun's Childs Walker:

"He was so headstrong when he got here that I don't think staying here for another week is going to be an advantage. I don't think going to Belmont for a week and then moving again is an advantage. So just looking at what the options are, I think Pimlico, there aren't usually a lot of horses training there, and it'll be a quiet environment. It'll give us time to settle in and if we need to, make any adjustments."

LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 06: Connections hold up the winner's trophy after  Always Dreaming #5 won the Kentucky Derby on Kentucky Derby Day at Churchill Downs on May 6, 2017 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Candice Chavez/Eclipse Sportswire/Getty Images)
Eclipse Sportswire/Getty Images

If a trainer as noteworthy as Pletcher is taking such an approach and sounds confident, bettors should as well.

That said, possible new faces like Cloud Computing and Conquest Mo Money will throw a wrinkle in the process. And it's important to keep in mind one of the notable narratives around other Kentucky Derby starters making the trip to Baltimore—Classic Empire was involved in a bit of a mix-up right out of the gates on Saturday and still finished fourth. Give the favorite a clean start and we might be having a different conversation right now.

If all stays the same, the contenders conversation surrounding the Preakness Stakes will sound much like the lead-up to the Kentucky Derby. Always Dreaming and Classic Empire enter as the favorites, with the rest of the field trailing.

Like at Churchill Downs, Always Dreaming will need the sheer skill displayed there with a dash of luck to make it to Belmont with the Triple Crown dream still intact.

       

Stats and information courtesy of Preakness.com unless otherwise specified. Odds via OddShark.

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