Always Dreaming Headlines Intriguing Group of Preakness Possibles

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Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming (right) will point to the May 20 Preakness Stakes, while runner-up Lookin At Lee (left) is also under consideration. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Impressive Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands winner Always Dreaming will head to historic Pimlico Race Course for the middle jewel of the Triple Crown, the 142ndPreakness Stakes on May 20.

At 8:10 a.m. Eastern on May 7, Maryland Jockey Club president and general manager Sal Sinatra called Todd Pletcher and formally invited the trainer and the other winning connections of Always Dreaming to continue their Triple Crown dream in the Preakness.

"I congratulated him on winning the race and extended him the traditional invitation to the Preakness, which he accepted," Sinatra said. "We are thrilled to have the Derby winner and he is excited about coming. He's going into the Preakness barn and putting Always Dreaming in stall 40, which is historically reserved for the Derby winner. Todd said he wanted to keep the mojo going."

Owned by MeB Racing Stables, Teresa Viola Racing Stables, St. Elias Stables, Brooklyn Boyz Stables, Siena Farm, and West Point Thoroughbreds, Always Dreaming is scheduled to arrive May 9 following a flight from Kentucky that will also include Preakness contender Royal Mo, trained by John Shirreffs.

As many as four other horses from the Derby are considered possible for the Preakness. Trainer Steve Asmussen said Lookin at Lee, the Kentucky Derby runner-up at 33.20-1, is a candidate. Classic Empire, who finished fourth after being knocked around early in the race, will go to the race if he recovers quickly from an issue with his right eye, trainer Mark Casse said.

More up in the air are Gunnevera and Girvin. Trainer Antonio Sano said a decision will be made about the seventh-place finisher Gunnevera after a discussion with the colt's majority owner, Solomon Del Valle. Girvin's connections told Churchill Downs officials they would consider both the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.

Trainer Kenny McPeek said Lexington Stakes winner Senior Investment is pointing to the Preakness. Also under consideration are Illinois Derby winner Multiplier; Cloud Computing, third-place finisher in the Wood Memorial Presented by NYRA Bets; and Conquest Mo Money, runner-up in the Arkansas Derby. Lancaster Bomber is one of two horses Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien is considering for the Preakness. Pletcher is also considering Rebel Stakes winner Malagacy for the Preakness.

Sinatra said Pletcher requested 12 stalls at Pimlico, which will host 15 stakes, eight of them graded, worth $3.7 million in purses on a Preakness weekend that kicks off with Black-Eyed Susan Day Friday, May 20.

Pletcher said his other two Derby starters – sixth-place finisher Tapwrit and the one-eyed horse Patch, who came in 14th – both came out of their efforts none the worse for wear. That duo would head to New York in the next few days, as would most of his runners stabled at Churchill Downs.

One of that bunch, the non-starting, Kentucky Derby also-eligible Master Plan, was sent out for a work Sunday at Churchill and registered a bullet :48 1/5 on a fast track. The colt's next appearance is scheduled for the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park May 13.

One day after finishing second in the Kentucky Derby with Lookin At Lee, it was business as usual for Hall of Fame trainer Asmussen, who took full advantage of the two-hour training window Sunday morning with his large Churchill string. His Hence and Untrapped finished 11th and 12th respectively in the Derby.

"Everybody's good," Asmussen said following training hours. "I haven't had a chance to talk to anybody to make any decisions on what's next for any of them. The Preakness is definitely a possibility for 'Lee.' But, we'll give this race the respect it deserves and wait and see how he does when he gets back to the track."

When asked what might be next for Hence and Untrapped, Asmussen responded, "That will be pretty interesting. I didn't think Hence ran his race. Not that he didn't handle the track, but I think the slop and the kickback in the face was a bit overwhelming. He just jumped up and down the whole way. Untrapped, we'll just try to find him the right spots."

WinStar Farm and Don Alberto Stable's Battle of Midway came out of his third-place Kentucky Derby finish in good order and will fly back to Southern California on Tuesday, according to Jerry Hollendorfer's East Coast assistant Christina Jelm. Hollendorfer told Maryland Jockey Club officials that a Preakness run was highly unlikely.

Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence's Practical Joke will aim for shorter middle-distance races moving forward, said trainer Chad Brown.

"He really got a great trip from that post; Joel [Rosario] did an awesome job," Brown said. "I thought Practical Joke handled the conditions well. He just wasn't good enough, particularly at that distance. We've finally seen what his limitations are. He's a very fine racehorse; he just can't go that far.

"I was proud of him. He was fighting and trying. It just wasn't the right race for him. We'll probably take a step back now and let him catch his breath a bit, regroup, and shorten his races."

Peacock Racing Stable's Gunnevera exited a seventh-place finish in Saturday's Kentucky Derby in good shape.

"Gunnevera came out of the race sound and healthy," said trainer Antonio Sano's son, Alessandro Sano, Sunday morning. The son of Dialed In was "jammed and bumped" at the start, according to the Derby chart caller, before making a mild bid while racing extremely wide in the stretch under Javier Castellano.

"My father will be meeting with the owners to decide what race will be best for Gunnevera," Alessandro Sano said.

Trainer Ian Wilkes said that Whitham Thoroughbreds' McCraken came out of the Kentucky Derby with a small cut on his left hind leg, but otherwise was none the worse for wear Sunday morning.

The son of Ghostzapper will bypass the rest of the Triple Crown and regroup for a summer campaign.

"He did cut his left hind, near his hind ankle. He's walking sound, but the main thing is to keep it clean and make sure it doesn't get infected," Wilkes said. "We'll just play it by ear from here."

Trainer John Shirreffs reported that Gormley, the ninth-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby, was "fine" Sunday morning after his effort. "He tried for us, but of course, we wish he would have been able to do better."

Shirreffs said Gormley would head back to his Southern California base at Santa Anita Park. Conversely, his stablemate Royal Mo, who was on the Kentucky Derby also-eligible list, will point for the Preakness. On May 7, Shirreffs sent the son of Uncle Mo through an easy five-furlong drill with exercise rider Cisco Alvarado in the saddle. Churchill Downs' clockers timed the full workout in 1:05 and recorded splits of :13.20, :23.60, :38 and :52.40.

"Royal Mo will ship to Baltimore Tuesday," Shirreffs said. "Gary Stevens (who was scheduled to ride him in the Kentucky Derby) will ride him in the Preakness."

Isabelle de Tomaso's Irish War Cry was "just fine" on the morning after his 10th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, according to trainer Graham Motion. Irish War Cry stalked the pace under Rajiv Maragh before fading through the stretch.

"At the top of the stretch, I thought we were in with a really good chance. Rajiv felt like he had a lot of horse. My gut tells me that he didn't quite get the mile and a quarter. It seemed like he struggled with the last part," Motion said. "He did seem to come out of the race just fine."

Motion said the New Jersey-bred son of Curlin is likely to skip the Preakness.

"I don't see a lot of reason to go on to the Preakness at this point," Motion said. "He's had a pretty good campaign this spring, so it's likely we'll skip that and make a plan to point for the Haskell (Invitational Stakes)."

Brad Grady's Girvin survived his rough trip in the 143rd Kentucky Derby and exited well, according to trainer Joe Sharp. The son of Tale of Ekati was in tight at the start and then bumped shortly after the break, and then was bumped badly and checked sharply around the five-sixteenths pole. No plans have been made for Girvin’s next start, but the Preakness Stakes and/or Belmont have not been ruled out as options.

Albaugh Family Stable's J Boys Echo settled back into trainer Dale Romans' barn following Saturday's Kentucky Derby.

"He's doing just fine. We will give him a few days and make some plans after that," Romans said.

Calumet Farm's Sonneteer remained a maiden following his 16th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. He walked the shedrow of Barn 25 Sunday morning.

"He's good. He just did not like the surface," said Julie Clark, assistant to trainer Keith Desormeaux. The Midnight Lute colt is scheduled to return Desormeaux's California base Tuesday.

Kendall Hansen, Skychai Racing, Bode Miller, and Sand Dollar Stable's Fast and Accurate exited his 17th-place effort in the Derby in good shape for trainer Mike Maker. Showing speed from post 3, he was forwardly placed throughout the early running before retreating in the final three-eighths under Channing Hill. Trainer Mike Maker said that he "hadn't spoken to Kendall (Hansen) yet," regarding the possibility of the JACK Cincinnati Casino Spiral Stakes-winning son of Hansen returning to turf and synthetic racing this spring and summer.

Toyota Blue Grass Stakes winner Irap recovered from his 18th-place effort in the Kentucky Derby and was back to his normal routine in Barn 41 on Churchill Downs' backside Sunday morning.

During the Derby, Irap was slammed soon after the break, steadied on the backside, and generally had an unhappy experience over the mile and a quarter.

"He was caked in mud," said Leandro Mora, assistant trainer to Doug O’Neill, on Sunday morning. "He didn't enjoy what happened at all. I don't think he could see for much of the race. It's hard to be running when you can't see where you're going. I think he just said 'the heck with it.'"

Irap will be sent back to his Southern California base Tuesday and other plans – not including the Preakness – will be hatched for him. Joining him on the flight will be six other horses from O'Neill's contingent that had shipped to Louisville.

The Mark Casse-trained State of Honor, who set the early pace in the Kentucky Derby before fading to finish 19th, will remain stabled at Churchill Downs, according to Norm Casse.

Godolphin Racing representatives declined comment on Thunder Snow the morning after his truncated appearance in the Kentucky Derby, when he bucked several times a few strides out of the gate and was pulled up by jockey Christophe Soumillon. Kentucky state veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Kaak examined the colt in the paddock immediately after the race and found him to have no injuries.

Godolphin released an official statement on the evening of May 6 following the Kentucky Derby: “Thunder Snow walked back to the stables where he was checked by the vets on course and initial reports suggest that he appears to be sound. We will closely monitor him over the next 24 hours to ensure that he is okay. Our first priority is his welfare. He worked well all week and we were very happy with his progress. We want to thank everyone for their support this week. We gave it our best. The team was amazing but it just wasn’t to be. Congratulations to the winning horse and the connections of Always Dreaming.”

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