Pletcher ‘Really Pleased’ with Always Dreaming One Week Before Preakness

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Always Dreaming gets a bath on May 12 at Pimlico Race Course, where the 2017 Kentucky Derby winner is preparing for the Preakness Stakes. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands winner Always Dreaming resumed his regular training schedule for the May 20 Preakness Stakes, galloping 1 1/4 miles on the sloppy sealed track on Saturday at Pimlico Race Course.

Trainer Todd Pletcher had opted to jog the Bodemeister colt with a pony on the wet track the day prior but allowed him to gallop Saturday with exercise rider Nick Bush aboard.

Pletcher was pleased with how the colt, owned by MeB Racing, Brookyln Boyz, Teresa Viola, St. Elias Stable, Siena Farm, and West Point Thoroughbreds, looked on the track.

Always Dreaming galloping at Pimlico Saturday. (Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club)

“Always Dreaming I thought actually went really well,” Pletcher said. “He took a nice grip but was settled, relaxed, got over the ground really well. I thought that in spite of the rain overnight that the track was actually smoother this morning than it was yesterday morning. It had a nice seal to it and was pretty consistent all the way across the track. I was really, really pleased with the way he went this morning.”

Pletcher checked out the conditions before deciding that he would let the energetic colt have the more strenuous exercise of a gallop.

“Yeah, I was concerned because I had looked at the radar overnight,” Pletcher said. “I couldn’t tell exactly when it started raining, but it looked like it rained most of the night and it was raining when we got here this morning. I was pleasantly surprised how good the surface was this morning when I walked out on it at 5:30.”

When Always Dreaming became too aggressive in his morning training at Churchill Downs a week prior to the Derby, Pletcher made an equipment change, adding draw reins that help control a horse’s head, and switching to Bush, a stronger exercise rider. Those moves worked well in the days leading up to the Derby and Pletcher stayed with the draw reins for gallops since shipping the colt to Maryland.

“It seemed like he was really just perfect this morning,” Pletcher said. “He was enthusiastic enough, but he didn’t overdo it. I think there was one horse on the track while he was out there and I don’t think he ever saw that horse. It was kind of that quiet environment that we were hoping for. I was concerned because anytime that you train on a sloppy surface they can get a little more excited with all the noise that comes along with that, but he was really good. Especially after having a jog day, I thought he was even more settled than I expected him to be.”

Always Dreaming will not have a timed workout between the Derby and the Preakness. He is scheduled to go to the track at 6 a.m. on Sunday. Following his gallop, he will school in the starting gate.

Jerry and Ann Moss’s Royal Mo jogged around the shedrow of the Preakness stakes barn Saturday morning and trainer John Shirreffs said he hopes the Uncle Mo colt will have an opportunity to put in a five-furlong breeze Sunday morning.

“I’m hoping. We’re not going to get a lot more rain, and they’ll be working the track all day, so I think it looks good,” said Shirreffs, who saddled the colt to victory in the Feb. 4 Robert B. Lewis Stakes and a third-place finish in the April 8 Santa Anita Derby.

At Churchill Downs Saturday, champion Classic Empire jogged a lap and galloped a lap under exercise rider Martin Rivera. The Arkansas Derby winner will train Sunday morning then be part of trainer Mark Casse’s Pimlico stakes contingent leaving about 3 p.m. to van to Baltimore.

“He was real aggressive, he was on the bridle,” said Norman Casse, who oversees the Kentucky operation for his father, Mark. “He’s showing really encouraging signs that he’s happy and healthy right now.”

Kentucky Derby runner-up Lookin At Lee and his 11th-place stablemate Hence, both trained by Steve Asmussen, had routine gallops at Churchill. Meanwhile, the Antonio Sano-trained Gunnevera, seventh in the Derby, left early Saturday morning for Baltimore.

Galloping at Keeneland were the Brendan Walsh-trained Illinois Derby winner Multiplier and Stonestreet Lexington Stakes winner Senior Investment for trainer Kenny McPeek. Both horses are scheduled to work on Sunday.

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