Always Dreaming heads the betting for the 2017 Preakness Stakes on Saturday, and, given how the Todd Pletcher-trained colt blew the field away at the Kentucky Derby, it would be bold to back another horse.
At Churchill Downs earlier this month, jockey John Velazquez moved his mount into the lead at the midway point and proceeded to impressively draw away from the chasing pack down the stretch.
A similar performance is certainly possible over the slightly shorter 9.5-furlong run of the Preakness at Pimlico Race Course, Maryland, with Always Dreaming looking to take the second step toward the Triple Crown.
Read on for a look at the key horses to watch and the jockeys that could ride to glory.
2017 Preakness Stakes Field
Post - Horse (Trainer; Jockey; Odds)
1 - Multiplier (Brendan Walsh; Joel Rosario; 20-1)
2 - Cloud Computing (Chad Brown; Javier Castellano; 20-1)
3 - Hence (Steve Asmussen; Florent Geroux; 12-1)
4 - Always Dreaming (Todd Pletcher; John Velazquez; 10-11)
5 - Classic Empire (Mark Casse; Julien Leparoux; 4-1)
6 - Gunnevera (Antonio Sano; Mike Smith; 12-1)
7 - Term of Art (Doug O'Neill; Jose Ortiz; 25-1)
8 - Senior Investment (Ken McPeek; Channing Hill; 25-1)
9 - Lookin at Lee (Steve Asmussen; Corey Lanerie; 11-1)
10 - Conquest Mo Money (Miguel Hernandez; Jorge Carreno; 16-1)
Betting odds courtesy of OddsShark.
As noted by Tom Pedulla in the New York Post, Pletcher and Velazquez are an almost "unstoppable" trainer-jockey duo.
They have a long and triumphant history together and finally filled one of the gaps in their resume as a duo by winning the Kentucky Derby after 11 previous failed attempts racing together—they had both won the Run for the Roses as individuals.
The Preakness is another notable absentee from the pair's long list of accomplishments.
However, that should in no way discount Always Dreaming of winning on Saturday.
As shown at Churchill Downs, Velazquez knows how to get the horse around safely and ahead of the pack.
Per Daily Racing Form's Jay Privman, Always Dreaming has explosive speed, and he could even fare better around the shorter Preakness track than he did at the Derby:
The key contender to the favourite on Saturday will be Classic Empire, who will be just outside Always Dreaming in post five at the start.
Ridden by Julien Leparoux, a multiple winner at the Breeders' Cup, Classic Empire led the betting in the lead up to the Kentucky Derby.
He ended up finishing fourth, but that does not tell the whole story.
The Mark Casse trainee endured a nightmare start out of the gate in a crowded field at Churchill Downs, from which he sustained a number of cuts and a swollen eye, per Mike Dempsey of OddsShark.
Leparoux felt it made a big difference to the outcome, per NYRA:
Despite the far-from-ideal start—which was in stark contrast to Always Dreaming's relatively serene getaway—Leparoux managed to steer Classic Empire to a respectable fourth-placed finish thanks to an electric closing run down the stretch.
It is clear that Classic Empire has the quality and pace to push Always Dreaming all the way on Saturday.
With a better start and perfect trip at the Preakness, Classic Empire could well cause an upset that ends Always Dreaming's campaign for Triple Crown glory in 2017.