Always Dreaming won the Kentucky Derby because he’s America’s most consistently fast 3-year-old, and it’s most consistently lucky.
Can he extend his run of good form and fortune in Saturday’s Preakness?
It’s no given a Derby winner has the edge in the Preakness. A horse may not be at his best only two weeks after giving a top effort. The races are run on different tracks, at different distances and often with a substantially different field of rivals. Tactics may favor one horse in the first leg of the Triple Crown and another horse in the second.
Take last year: In the Derby, Nyquist faced only one other solid front-runner, ran close to the early lead on a comfortable pace, took the lead on the turn for home and went on to win. In the Preakness, he had to contend with five other horses with front-running speed; forced to go faster early, he faded to third as mud-loving Exaggerator rallied from eighth to win.
Could something similar happen to this year’s Derby winner? Always Dreaming’s victory in Louisville did look a little like Nyquist’s. Taking advantage of a post position near the inside and other contenders’ early trouble, he fell into a perfect trip right behind a stamina-challenged pacesetter.
Bettors looking for an upset might love to think Always Dreaming won’t have it as easy in Baltimore. But he might.
Again drawn near the inside of a 10-horse field, he faces only one opponent with habitual early speed, namely Arkansas Derby runner-up Conquest Mo Money, who skipped the Kentucky Derby. And Always Dreaming is simply faster than Conquest Mo Money.
Jockey John Velazquez should be able to put Always Dreaming in his preferred early position, first or second.
If something goes wrong for Always Dreaming, who is 4-5 on the Pimlico morning line — remember that trainer Todd Pletcher is no wiz with horses on short rest — the one to beat him should be 2-year-old champion Classic Empire, who is 3-1. Classic Empire finished fourth in the Derby,…