The Preakness Stakes went much as expected through the first mile of the classic race Saturday. Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming went to the front right from the start, and chief rival Classic Empire went with him.
Those two horses appeared to be in command of the race because they opened up distance on the rest of the 10-horse field and it seemed like they did it without establishing a ruinous pace.
Still, they were pushing each other hard, and the duel eventually took its toll.
Classic Empire jockey Julien Leparoux decided he was going to test the Derby winner with about ⅜ of a mile to go, and he went by Always Dreaming in a decisive manner.
At that time, Cloud Computing was more than three lengths behind the leader, and that's when jockey Javier Castellano decided to ask his charge to run. He quickly picked up speed and was starting to gain ground.
Meanwhile, Classic Empire had a clear lead and the wire was in sight. Trainer Mark Casse apparently had prepared his charge for a winning effort in the middle jewel of the Triple Crown.
That message did not make its way back to Cloud Computing, who was eating up ground in the homestretch. He was clearly gaining on Classic Empire and it was just a matter of whether he would reach him before he reached the finish line.
Cloud Computing did just that in his final strides, passing him in his final two strides and winning the 1 3/16-mile race with a time of 1:55.98. The fractions for the race were 23 seconds at the quarter-mile mark, 46.4 at the half-mile, 1:11 at the three-quarter mile and 1:36.3 at the mile mark.
Cloud Computing had gone off in the race as a 13-1 shot, and he paid $28.80, $8.60 and $6 for the victory. Classic Empire paid $4.40 and $4, while 31-1 shot Senior Investment paid $10.20 for his third-place finish.
The winning exacta of Cloud Computing and Classic Empire paid $98.40, according to the Daily Racing Form, while the winning $1 trifecta paid $1,097.80.
Trainer Chad Brown did not run Cloud Computing in the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May. Instead, Brown wanted a fresh horse for the Preakness and his decision to rest his horse was prescient:
"Certainly I'm not going to dispute the fact that I brought in a fresh horse as part of our strategy. Our horse is very talented, too. Classic Empire and Always Dreaming are two outstanding horses, and our strategy was, if we are ever going to beat them let’s take them on two weeks' rest when we have six [weeks], and it worked."
Jockey John Velazquez knew that his horse was tiring and that it wasn't his day.
"I knew I was in trouble on the backstretch," Velazquez said, per Chuck Culpepper of the Washington Post. "When the other horse got to him, almost head to head, and engaged him. I knew he didn't have it."
Two Triple Crown races have been completed, with the Belmont Stakes remaining. That race will be contested at Belmont Park in New York June 10, and while the field has not been finalized, Classic Empire, Always Dreaming and Cloud Computing are all possible contenders.
That 1 ½-mile race is the Test of Champions, and it will put a shiny finish on the Triple Crown season.