Preakness Stakes contender Classic Empire is washed after a workout at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Wednesday, May 17, 2017. "I thought he ran a very good second, so that makes him certainly a horse you have to keep your eye on for this race".
The storied race has plenty of traditions in keeping with its status as USA racing's second biggest event after the Kentucky Derby.
Come Saturday afternoon a calm will descend upon the farms in Central Kentucky as most of the staff try to finish up their chores early in time to watch the Preakness, and a large contingent of the Irish community will return to McCarthy's Pub in downtown Lexington where they all watched and then celebrated breeder Gerry Dilger's victory in the Kentucky Derby with Always Dreaming two weeks ago. He's the 3-1 second choice and considered the main threat.
"It's not a two-horse race", Classic Empire trainer Mark Casse said.
The race for three-year-old thoroughbreds, also held over dirt, is shorter than the Derby, at nine-and-a-half furlongs or 1 3/16 miles. Thirteen winners have started from that post, most recently Curlin in 2007. If Always Dreaming gets off to a good start, as usual, from post 4, Velazquez can choose between setting the pace and stalking.
Which horse will come out on top?
Post positions were drawn on a steamy, unseasonable 92-degree day at Pimlico.
Of course, its become incumbent for the trainer of the Derby victor to bring the champ to Pimlico for a shot at making a Triple Crown bid.
Take a year ago: 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 fact, seven of the last 15 Kentucky Derby victors also went on to win the second leg of the Triple Crown two weeks later.
"Always Dreaming was able to work a ideal trip on what was the best part of the race track, the inside rail, " Bailey said. "We don't want to see him get too excited and step on himself".
Casse likes the neighboring posts.
"He never was a real charismatic, amusing person", mentor and Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said, "but he always handled himself well". "I'm not seeing that with Always Dreaming right now".
So call it a two-horse race with a possible interloper - and, as always, the real chance that nothing, after all this talk, will go as planned. "I think we'll be back here next year, I really do".
Notes: After winning the Kentucky Derby as a 50-1 long shot, Mine That Bird finished a length behind Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness. Giacomo got stuck with an outside post in the Preakness and finished 9 ¾ lengths behind the favored Afleet Alex.
Rounding out the field on the odds to win the Preakness Stakes are Cloud Computing (+1400), Gunnevera (+1600), Conquest Mo Money (+1800), Hence (+2000), Term of Art (+3300), Senior Investment (+3300) and Multiplier (+4000). He will break from the No. 2 hole.
Regardless of the Preakness outcome, Conquest Mo Money is already a victor for New Mexico-based owner Tom McKenna, 81, who paid only $8,500 for the colt last November at the dispersal sale of Conquest Stable horses.