Preakness field likely to be missing many Kentucky Derby starters

Always Dreaming, ridden by John Velazquez, heads down the home stretch to victory in the 143rd Kentucky Derby.
(David J. Phillip / Associated Press)

It’s a Kentucky Derby rite of passage, the excitement that builds for the Preakness the moment the winner crosses the finish line at Churchill Downs.

Is Always Dreaming good enough to win the Preakness? Sure.

Is he a Triple Crown horse? Probably not, but it’s too early to tell.

Saturday’s Kentucky Derby was not a good indication of the ability of many of the horses because the surface, which Equibase ridiculously labeled as “wet fast,” compromised the run of a lot of starters.

Normally when a jockey or trainer says a horse didn’t like the surface it’s code for “we don’t know why they didn’t run.”

However, in this case, it was true.

But you can’t take anything away from Always Dreaming, who had a great trip against a field of closers.


“Always Dreaming came out of it in wonderful fashion, just excellent,” winning trainer Todd Pletcher said Sunday morning. “He ate very well last night and he’s got some spring in his step this morning.”

There won’t be a lot of familiar horses at the Preakness in two weeks.

If Always Dreaming hadn’t won the Derby, it’s a certainty he wouldn’t be in the Preakness because Pletcher loathes bringing back horses that quickly.

Lookin At Lee, the second-place finisher, has trainer Steve Asmussen looking at the slightly shorter 1 3/16-mile race.

“The Preakness is definitely a possibility for Lee,” Asmussen said. “We’ll give this race the respect it deserves and wait and see how he does when he gets back to the track.”

Classic Empire, who finished fourth, is a maybe for the Preakness. He came back to the barn with some small cuts and a swollen right eye that was about three-quarters shut. If the eye gets better he will probably go to Baltimore.

“A lot of it is just going to be how quickly his eye can come around,” trainer Mark Casse said. “He also got cut up quite a bit yesterday. He looks like Muhammad Ali after a rough night. We’re just going to have to wait and see.”

The connections of Gunnevera and Girvin haven’t made a decision yet on their next race.

“[Jockey] Mike [Smith] said I should run [Girvin] back in the Preakness or Belmont,” trainer Joe Sharp said.

Irish War Cry, the second favorite and the tout of a lot of handicappers, will be skipping the Preakness.

“I don’t see a lot of reason to go on to the Preakness at this point,” trainer Graham Motion said. “He’s had a pretty good campaign this spring, so it’s likely we’ll skip that and make a plan and point to the Haskell.”

As for California horses, there will likely be only one in the Preakness, Royal Mo, who was the 21st horse in a 20-horse field at the Derby. The scratch needed for him to get in the race never occurred.

Royal Mo has the same connections of trainer John Shirreffs and owners Ann and Jerry Moss as Gormley, who is being shipped back to Santa Anita after finishing ninth in the Derby.

Jerry Hollendorfer, trainer of third-place Battle of Midway, told Maryland Jockey Club officials that it was highly unlikely the colt would go to Pimlico.

Trainer Doug O’Neill said that Irap, who finished 18th, would be sent back to Santa Anita on Tuesday. O’Neill does not plan to send any horses to Baltimore.

Sonneteer trainer Keith Desormeaux was asked what his colt’s next race was and he quipped: “How about a maiden race?”

Sonneteer, who finished 16th, was the only maiden in the Derby.

The list of fresh horses being considered for the Preakness includes Conquest Mo Money, who was second in the Arkansas Derby; Senior Investment, winner of the Lexington Stakes; Multiplier, winner of the Illinois Derby; and Cloud Computing, third in the Wood Memorial.

But right now, there’s only one horse that people care about and that’s only because he isn’t fresh, having slogged his way around Churchill Downs for 1 1/4 miles.

Stand by for a lot of dreaming metaphors.

Twitter: @jcherwa


May 9, 9:38 p.m.: The article clarified the ownership group of Royal Mo by adding the name of Ann Moss.