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Cloud Computing edges Classic Empire to win the 142nd Preakness Stakes

Amid all the hype, amid all the anticipation, another possible Triple Crown bid ended in a way no one expected.

Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and expected rival Classic Empire, the two big favorites, ran a match race for less than a mile with Empire in perfect stalking position. Midway on the far turn it was clear that Always Dreaming just couldn’t keep up.

Classic Empire was all set to win the 142nd running of the Preakness Stakes on Saturday at Pimlico Race Course with a three-length lead entering the stretch. But then he started to lose ground to Cloud Computing, who moved off the rail and just passed Classic Empire on the outside at the wire.

The official margin of Cloud Computing’s victory was a head, although it looked closer. It was only the colt’s fourth race and second victory.

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Senior Investment, who also didn’t run in the Derby, finished third. Always Dreaming finished eighth in the 10-horse field.

Cloud Computing had enough points to enter the Derby, but trainer Chad Brown thought he was too lightly raced to contest the 20-horse field.

“I’m not going to dispute the fact that I brought a fresh horse as part of our strategy,” Brown said. “Classic Empire and Always Dreaming are two outstanding horses and our strategy was, if we are going to ever beat them, let’s take them on two weeks’ rest, when we have six, and it worked.”

Jockey Javier Castellano rode Gunnevera in the Derby but opted to switch to Cloud Computing.

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“I think I have a lot of confidence with the horse,” said Castellano, who also won the 2006 Preakness with Bernardini. “I never had the opportunity to ride the horse. But the way I saw it at races and the analysis [I had made me want to ride.] Mr. Brown gave me the opportunity to ride the horse and I’m thankful for that.”

The fact that this combination won shouldn’t be a surprise, as they are the current Eclipse Award winning jockey and trainer. Brown’s prowess is thought to be as a turf trainer.

“I whispered to Chad in the winner’s circle, best dirt trainer in the country,” co-owner William Lawrence said. “It’s a little joke. People think he’s only a turf trainer.”

Cloud Computing paid $28.80 to win, $8.60 to place and $6 to show. Classic Empire returned $4.40 and $4. Senior Investment paid $10.20.

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The remainder of the field was Lookin At Lee, Gunnevera, Multiplier, Conquest Mo Money, Always Dreaming, Hence and Term Of Art, the only West Coast-based horse in the race.

A case can be made that this year’s Kentucky Derby was more taxing on the field than usual given the slop that they ran in at Churchill Downs and the excessive bumping out of the gate.

It’s not unusual for a horse to bring their Derby form into the Preakness after two weeks. But the fact that the two favorites tired in a race that was half-a-furlong shorter may say more about the Derby conditions than the horses.

Todd Pletcher, trainer of Always Dreaming, was stoic, as always, in defeat.

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“We didn’t have an excuse,” Pletcher said. “We were in the position we expected to be and I think the turnaround was a little too quick. He ran so hard in the Derby and today just wasn’t his day.”

Classic Empire’s trainer Mark Casse explained the strategy was to go fast and go hard.

“I thought he ran outstanding,” Casse said. “We were going to be aggressive and that’s what he did. … He tried to kick back, but we were second best today.”

The record crowd of 140,327 roared as the horses fought the final few yards, no doubt concerned about what part of the record $97 million that was bet on Preakness day would be theirs.

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Brown made no promises of running in the Belmont Stakes in three weeks. Without a Triple Crown candidate, the race reverts to just a good Grade 1 stakes race.

“Do I think he’s a mile-and-a-half horse?” Brown asked referring to the Belmont distance. “He’s never really struck me that way, but I’m not going to rule it out. Let’s see how he comes out of it and who is running and get a feel for it. I’ll leave it as a possibility right now.”

While everyone was expecting a New York kind of story given Always Dreaming’s owners from Brooklyn and a trainer based at Belmont, it actually turned out to have a Baltimore feel to it. Cloud Computing’s other owner, Seth Klarman, grew up three blocks from Pimlico.

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“I was a big fan of racing when I was a kid and came to the Preakness many, many times,” Klarman said. “I never imagined I’d own a horse, let alone be the winner of the Preakness.”

As is tradition after a race, praise was being passed around like hor d’oeuvres at a fancy party.

“Chad had a brilliant plan to bring the horse here and a brilliant plan for how the race was going to be run,” Klarman said. “Javier executed just perfectly on Chad’s plan and here we are right now.”


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