The second leg of this year's Triple Crown will get underway on Saturday as the Preakness Stakes makes its way back to Pimlico Race Course, Baltimore, with Always Dreaming in the hunt to build on his win at the 2017 Kentucky Derby.
The heavier conditions at Churchill Downs played directly into the hands of trainer Todd Pletcher's favourite, but some among the Preakness field may fancy this Saturday's showdown as a prime opportunity to stage a surprise.
The odds-on frontrunners have held an imperious record in the Kentucky Derby over recent years, but the tighter twists of Pimlico could set the stage for a horse more well-suited to its setting.
What's more, Scott Dance of the Baltimore Sun recently reported "warm" and "dry" conditions are expected for the 142nd edition of the Preakness Stakes, which lies in contrast to the Triple Crown opener at Churchill Downs.
The post positions for this year's Preakness Stakes are yet to be released, although the event's official website confirmed the draw will take place in Baltimore this Wednesday.
Read on as we profile some of the top selections likely to thrive at Pimlico on Saturday, complete with a rundown of the known runners in full.
|2017 Preakness Stakes Runners|
|Always Dreaming||Brooklyn Boyz Stables, et al||Todd Pletcher||John Velazquez|
|Classic Empire||John C. Oxley||Mark Casse||Julien Leparoux|
|Cloud Computing||Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence||Chad Brown||Javier Castellano|
|Conquest Mo Money||Judge Lanier Racing||Miguel Hernandez||Jorge Carreno|
|Gunnevera||Peacock Racing Stables||Antonio Sano||Mike Smith|
|Hence||Calumet Farm||Steve Asmussen||Florent Geroux|
|Lookin at Lee||L and N Racing LLC||Steve Asmussen||Corey Lanerie|
|Multiplier||Gary Barber, et al||Brendan Walsh||Joel Rosario|
|Royal Mo||Jerry and Ann Moss||John Shirreffs||Gary Stevens|
|Senior Investment||Fern Circle Stables||Ken McPeek||Channing Hill|
|Term of Art||Calumet Farm||Doug O'Neill||Jose Ortiz|
Were it not for the sloppy conditions at Churchill Downs, Gunnevera could have hoped for much more than his seventh-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, and he comes to Pimlico with renewed prospects for better this time around.
Blood Horse editor Alicia Wincze Hughes reported the colt looked to be in good shape ahead of Saturday's showdown, getting his preparations underway after arriving in Baltimore on Saturday:
Alicia Wincze Hughes @BH_AHughes
Gunnevera feeling pretty good coming off https://t.co/dK4nGF6Rln2017-5-12 12:48:38
Before that, owner Antonio Sano tweeted that his horse was "in great shape" heading to Pimlico, teasing the prospect of an outside shot at top spot in the Preakness Stakes:
Sano Racing Stables @ASanoRacing
Horse came back in great shape after the Derby. We think that Gunnevera deserves another chance. Why not @PreaknessStakes with $ Mike up.2017-5-9 13:57:14
Prior to the Kentucky Derby, Gunnevera came third in the Florida Derby and clinched three impressive wins over the past 12 months, including victory in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth last month.
The three-year-old's record suggests he also prefers the shorter-distance events, meaning Saturday's 1 3/16-mile track could play into his favour compared with the 1 1/4-mile distance at Kentucky.
As far as the wildcard selections go, Hence could be considered a long shot for the Preakness Stakes following his run to 11th place at Churchill Downs earlier this month, but the potential for bigger things is clearly present.
The Calumet Farm-owned star has mixed low-end finishes with four top-three runs in his seven-race career, but it's only been six weeks since he displayed good staying power to win this year's Sunland Derby.
However, there were some concerns over whether the progeny of Street Boss would feature at Pimlico at all, having previously been listed as an uncertainty for the race by WBAL-TV reporter Chris Dachille:
Chris Dachille @WBALDash
Preakness: Classic Empire listed as a go for the Preakness. Lookin at Lee and Hence are probable. Gunnevera ruled a "50-50 shot." Per MJC.2017-5-8 18:44:17
The 18 1/2 lengths that distanced him from Always Dreaming in Kentucky was an embarrassing margin of defeat, but he's shown on several occasions this year that poor starts don't equate to poor finishes.
What's more, Hence is trained by two-time Preakness Stakes-winner Steve Asmussen, who appears to have a knack for success in this particular race and will be seeking his hat-trick this Saturday.