Always Dreaming is daunting but not unbeatable in Preakness

Pimlico hosts the Grade I, $1.5 million Preakness Stakes this Saturday and it drew a field of 10. #4 ALWAYS DREAMING, the Kentucky Derby winner, was installed as the 4-5 morning-line favorite. He’ll rematch with several Derby also-rans as well as some fresh faces looking to make a name for themselves. The field will be tasked with a 1 3/16th-mile journey around the main course at “Old Hilltop.” Estimated post time for the Preakness, the 13th race of the day, is 6:48 p.m. EST. Remember to take part in FanXT’s Daily Fantasy Jockey game in addition to watching and wagering!

ALWAYS DREAMING is in good position to give Todd Pletcher his first ever Preakness victory. ALWAYS DREAMING got a good trip under John Velazquez (who is also in pursuit of his first Preakness win) at Churchill, saving plenty of ground but going at a quick clip up front. ALWAYS DREAMING should not be pressed too hard early on in the Preakness, as the only other confirmed speed type in the field is #10 CONQUEST MO MONEY. ALWAYS DREAMING won the Kentucky Derby by nearly three lengths over #9 LOOKIN AT LEE despite that foe getting an ideal setup, so even if ALWAYS DREAMING takes a step back or finds himself in an unexpected pace duel, he still has some margin for error to work with.

His odds will be short, but ALWAYS DREAMING is likely to make it five straight triumphs and get to the Belmont Stakes with a chance to join history.

#5 CLASSIC EMPIRE (3-1) has the best chance at pulling off the upset. He was fourth and beaten eight lengths in Kentucky by ALWAYS DREAMING, but CLASSIC EMPIRE may have been short going into that race off just one good prep; a win in the Arkansas Derby. He battled minor injuries to get into the “Run for the Roses” then endured a nightmarish trip. He was knocked off stride soon after the break and was forced about six-wide into the stretch. Despite the ordeal, he and Julien Leparoux ran creditably. He still has ground to make up on ALWAYS DREAMING, but CLASSIC EMPIRE is very dangerous in this year’s Preakness.

CONQUEST MO MONEY (15-1) should be up front early with ALWAYS DREAMING. An honest pace is expected but not a blazing-fast one. CONQUEST MO MONEY passed the stamina test in the Arkansas Derby as he held for second after laying down quick early fractions. He and jockey Jorge Carreno, riding in his first career Triple Crown race, will have to overcome the far outside post but a small share is certainly not out of the question.

The play: $5 exacta box 4/5, $10 win 5 ($20)

DFJ analysis: I recommended taking John Velazquez for Friday’s card and I’m doubling down on him this Saturday. He has a very good shot in the Preakness aboard ALWAYS DREAMING, which could complete a stakes double for him if he can get Ring Weekend (4-1) home first in the Dixie. Velazquez rides in five other races, with his best shot at a win being in the Sir Barton Stakes on Time to Travel (7-2).

Over at Belmont, Irad Ortiz Jr. has once again lined up a slew of good mounts against lesser competition, as some of Belmont’s better riders opted to go to Pimlico. Just one of his six mounts is above 7-2 in odds, and he rides second-choice Lady Alexandra in the Soaring Softly Stakes.

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