Little has changed leading up to the Preakness Stakes, where Always Dreaming and Classic Empire will once again enter as favorites.
The two colts emerged as top Kentucky Derby contenders before Always Dreaming won the Triple Crown's first leg. A fourth-place finish at Churchill Downs has not diminished Classic Empire's popularity before Saturday's showcase at Pimlico Race Course.
With the field whittled down to 10, these top-two horses have expanded their distance from everyone else. Of the other three Derby participants, surprise runner-up Lookin At Lee will enjoy the most attention.
After examining the 142nd Preakness Stakes competitors and odds, courtesy of OddsShark as of Friday, let's break down the top candidates' chances to cross the finish line first in Baltimore.
Preakness Stakes Post Positions and Odds
1. Multiplier, 40-1
2. Cloud Computing, 14-1
3. Hence, 20-1
4. Always Dreaming, 4-5
5. Classic Empire, 3-1
6. Gunnevera, 16-1
7. Term of Art, 33-1
8. Senior Investment, 33-1
9. Lookin At Lee, 10-1
10. Conquest Mo Money, 18-1
Four consecutive Kentucky Derby winners followed with a Preakness win before Exaggerator upended Nyquist last year. Following an impressive victory in Louisville, Always Dreaming can restart the streak this weekend.
The oddsmakers think he will. After all, Bodemeister's son hasn't lost in four 2017 starts. As noted by the Washington Post's Neil Greenberg, he notched triple-digit Beyer speed figures in both the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby.
His practice runs leading up to the Preakness impressed Jay Privman of Daily Racing Form:
Jay Privman @DRFPrivman
Thought Always Dreaming sharper today than yesterday, and he was very good yesterday. Seems like dynamite ready to explode when lit. #ready2017-5-18 09:53:12
Trainer Todd Pletcher also liked what he has saw. Per Brisnet's Jennifer Caldwell, he praised Always Dreaming for "doing unbelievably well in the two-week turnaround."
"I'm someone who has been in a lot of races and lost a lot of races, so I know you don't want to be overconfident," Pletcher said. "But I do feel very, very good about the way he's coming into it.”
After handily winning the opening leg, Always Dreaming will justifiably strut into Pimlico as the comfortable favorite.
A top Kentucky Derby contender, Classic Empire narrowly fell outside the money at fourth. The worst finish of his racing career hasn't deterred bettors from again solidifying his status as a legitimate threat.
From the 14th post, the Derby front-runner succumbed to a messy start. A crash out of the gates quickly derailed his chances. He recovered significantly to salvage fourth place.
Norman Casse, son of trainer Mark Casse, told the Associated Press' David Ginsburg, via ABC News, that a condensed field should eliminate such a misfortune.
"It's always a fairer race. You don't have 20 horses, you don't have a bunch of horses that don't belong in the race," Casse said. "Things get sorted out a little bit more here at the Preakness."
A cleaner beginning will allow Classic Empire to challenge Always Dreaming down the stretch. Another strong finish could yield the victory many prognosticators expected two weeks ago.
Lookin At Lee
Even as the third favorite, Lookin At Lee is a threat to the other two the same way the San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics are obstacles to the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers. Given 10-1 odds after nearly pulling off a major Kentucky Derby upset, it doesn't pay to bet on a repeat.
The colt hasn't flaunted the speed necessary to predict his first major triumph. A cluttered field helped the strong closer stay competitive out of the gate, but jockey Corey J. Lanerie will have a much tougher time keeping up with the favorites early at Pimlico.
Lookin At Lee's team can draw inspiration from Exaggerator, who last year became the first Derby runner-up in 23 years to win the Preakness. Steve Asmussen also suggested to Ginsburg that his horse has winning intangibles.
"His personality and gamesmanship are what gave us confidence in him going into the Derby," Asmussen said. "You have no control over how the other horses run, but you always feel Lookin At Lee is going to do his best."
Or maybe he's just a horse forced to run. He's much closer to Cloud Computing and Conquest Mo Money than the top-two contenders, but a third-place finish isn't out of the picture.