With the glow of the sun pink on the horizon and most of the Pimlico Race Course stakes barn just beginning to rustle with activity, Preakness Stakes winner Cloud Computing departed from Baltimore to return to his Belmont Park home base May 21, just hours after his 13.40-1 upset in the second leg of the Triple Crown.
Trainer Chad Brown was not at Pimlico the morning after his first Triple Crown classic score, but several other Preakness conditioners were on hand Sunday and some were already thinking about the next classic. Brown said after the Preakness May 20 that a June 10 Belmont Stakes run was "a possibility" for Cloud Computing.
Trainer Mark Casse was hands-on with 2016 2-year-old champion male and second-place Preakness finisher Classic Empire the morning after. Manning the shank as the Pioneerof the Nile colt got his legs rinsed Sunday, Casse said a Belmont run is under consideration.
"Right now I'd say there's a very good shot he's going to run in the Belmont," Casse said. "But we won't make that [decision yet]. We'll see how he acts and does everything."
Casse said if Classic Empire does run in the 1 ½-mile third classic, an equipment change might be in order. Because he felt the colt might have been caught by surprise late in the stretch by Cloud Computing, Casse said removing blinkers to keep Classic Empire engaged could be an option.
"If I could do it all over again, the only thing I would do differently is I would take the blinkers off him. I'm not so sure how much he saw that horse coming," Casse said of Classic Empire's final furlong in the Preakness. The Arkansas Derby winner had a three-length advantage at the eighth pole, but lost by a head at the wire. "He dug back in, but the other horse had some momentum on him, and if you watch him going on out, he took off again."
Trainer Todd Pletcher said Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands winner Always Dreaming came out of the Preakness healthy, but was still a bit unsure as to why the son of Bodemeister backed up so severely late and finished eighth.
"He's healthy and happy," Pletcher said. "We'll head back to Belmont ... and regroup. When I spoke to the ownership after the race yesterday, we all decided we wouldn't make a decision [regarding his next start] until we got him home and evaluated him. ... Talking to [jockey John Velazquez] a little more, he was concerned down the backside, that Always Dreaming wasn't taking him there the same way he was taking him there in the Kentucky Derby and Xpressbet Florida Derby.
"Other than that, I don't have a good explanation. He came back healthy and looks good. ... The surface – I hate to use that as an excuse, because he's run well over all kinds of different surfaces, but this one was a little bit different, because it was in that drying-out phase. But it wasn't his day, I suppose."
Likely starters in the Belmont are third-place Preakness finisher Senior Investment and fourth-place Lookin At Lee, who will both depart for New York Sunday.
"We just used this as a prep race," joked Senior Investment's trainer, Kenny McPeek. "We felt all along he wanted a mile and a half, but the Belmont is tougher than this sometimes, because the pace can be much slower. Does it suit him? He's just going to keep coming. ... We made a decision yesterday before the race, if he finishes fourth or better, he punches his ticket."
Trainer Steve Asmussen said both of his Preakness runners – Lookin At Lee and Hence – exited the race healthy, but only Lookin At Lee will be continuing on the Triple Crown trail.
"We're just going to regroup with Hence. I don't think the Belmont distance or the stage suits him right now," Asmussen said. "Lookin At Lee is vanning on to Belmont this morning."
Also under consideration for a Belmont try are Preakness runners Multiplier (sixth) and Conquest Mo Money (seventh).
Multiplier left Pimlico early Sunday and is en route to Kentucky. Trainer Brendan Walsh said a Belmont run for the Illinois Derby winner is "possible."
Conquest Mo Money is staying local, at least for the time being, and will soon be stabled at Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md., where he will train for a potential Belmont start.
"I think we'll go [to the Belmont], but it's not 100 percent" said Conquest Mo Money's trainer, Miguel Hernandez.
One horse who will definitely not be making the trip to New York is Gunnevera. Trainer Antonio Sano said the Dialed In colt bled for the first time in his 11-race career during his fifth-place Preakness run, and that he'll return to his South Florida base with an eye on a start at Saratoga Race Course, where he won the Saratoga Special in 2016.
"We're going to take him back to Florida, give him a nice rest, then take him back to Saratoga," said Alessandro Sano, the son of Antonio Sano who also serves as his father's assistant.