Preakness Update: Eleven Possible Contenders for Baltimore's Classic Race

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The field for the 2017 Kentucky Derby enters the homestretch, with eventual winner Always Dreaming (lime green and blue silks) in the lead. (Eclipse Sportswire)

The field for the May 20 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course continues to take shape.

Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands winner Always Dreaming is scheduled to arrive in Baltimore the morning of May 9, and trainer Todd Pletcher expects to be at Pimlico May 10.

Ten contenders are pointed to challenge Always Dreaming in the Preakness as of May 10 – four from the Kentucky Derby, and six new shooters. They are: Lookin At Lee (second in the Kentucky Derby); Classic Empire (fourth); Gunnevera (seventh); Hence (11th); Illinois Derby winner Multiplier; Stonestreet Lexington Stakes winner Senior Investment; Arkansas Derby runner-up Conquest Mo Money; Wood Memorial Presented by NYRA Bets third-place finisher Cloud ComputingSanta Anita Derby third-place finisher Royal Mo; and San Felipe Stakes third-place finisher Term of Art

On May 8, Pletcher said Sumaya U.S. Stable's Rebel Stakes winner Malagacy will not contest the second leg of the Triple Crown. The seven-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer is sending a strong contingent to Baltimore, including Illinois Derby runner-up Hedge Fund for the LARC Sir Barton Stakes.

According to trainer Mark Casse, reigning champion 2-year-old male Classic Empire's right eye issue from the Kentucky Derby has significantly improved, and if it continues to heal, the Pioneerof the Nile colt will run in Baltimore.

"It was three-quarters shut yesterday [May 7]," Casse said. "He was able to get his eye wide open today. He does still have a little abrasion on it, but we're treating it and it's expected to be gone in the next couple of days.

"Physically, he's fine. So as long as [his eye] continues to get better, we plan on being at Pimlico."

Shipping details for the arrival of John Oxley's colt at Pimlico are still being determined, but Casse said Classic Empire will probably not have an official work before the Preakness.

"He'll just go into the Preakness easy," he said. "He probably won't even breeze, he may just pick it up a little. Fitness wise, he's as good as he can be. Right now it's just a matter of keeping him happy and recovering from the Derby."

The Canadian Hall of Fame trainer added his team is eager to take another shot at the Derby winner Always Dreaming, and hopes to have more luck May 20.

"We're very proud of Classic Empire," he said. "The winner was a superstar on Saturday, and our only wish was we got a shot at him because we never did. It's one of the reasons why we're excited to go to Pimlico. We have the utmost respect for Always Dreaming, but we still want a crack at him."

Breaking from the main starting gate in post 14 for the Louisville classic, Classic Empire was bumped heavily as Irish War Cry, McCraken, and others in the auxiliary gate moved toward the rail.

"That's the issue with the auxiliary gate," Casse said. "Normally when horses come over, they can't come very far because they're all bouncing off of each other and they kind of support each other. When you have that room in the middle, it gives them a little bit more momentum. Julien [Leparoux] said that we were very close to going down."

Regardless of what happened in the Kentucky Derby, Casse and crew are ready for the second leg of the Triple Crown.

"I came out of the Derby disappointed that Classic Empire didn't at least get a fair shot, but I'm very proud of him ... Even in his loss, he got a lot of new admirers for his courage. He ran by a lot of good horses that had no problems."

Trainer Antonio Sano also said May 8 that multiple graded stakes winner Gunnevera will contest the Preakness. The trainer doesn't have shipping plans lined up for the colt yet.

Through his Twitter account, Sano said jockey Mike Smith will have the call aboard the son of Dialed In for the Preakness, replacing Javier Castellano who was aboard in the Kentucky Derby. Castellano will ride Cloud Computing for trainer Chad Brown in the Preakness.

Sano said that the Peacock Racing Stables' colt was doing well after the race and that the Kentucky Derby did not take a lot out of him.

Trainer Steve Asmussen said at Churchill Downs he is "expecting to go" to the Preakness with Derby runner-up Lookin At Lee and that Hence is a "probable" candidate.

"I'm just very happy with the Lookin at Lee came out of the race. We'll give him another day off, just walk the shed, and we'll go to the track on our normal schedule," Asmussen said. "He'll probably have one easy (half-mile workout) before we head up there."

Lookin At Lee is expected to fly out from Kentucky on May 17. Before the Kentucky Derby, Asmussen had said the spacing of races appeared to be a key for Sunland Derby winner Hence, who puts a lot into his daily training.

"Hence came out of the race really well. He didn't run hard enough to be tired, I know that. [The two-week spacing between classic races is] not necessarily ideal, but if he didn't run hard, [more time] wouldn't be as required," Asmussen said.

"He was pretty overwhelmed, I think, just by the kickback and stuff. He never leveled off, definitely came out of it feeling good. So I don't think he ran hard. Off a hard race, spacing is required. But off an easy one, it's more like a work."

Illinois Derby winner Multiplier. (Four Footed Fotos)

Trainer Brendan Walsh termed American Equistock's Multiplier "a strong possibility" for the Preakness after the colt worked an easy half-mile in :50 3/5 at Keeneland on May 8. Walsh was in the saddle for the move. The Keeneland clockers caught Multiplier galloping out to five furlongs in 1:03 3/5 after breezing in company.

"He's not a great work horse, but he worked good and we're happy with him." Walsh said. "We are pointing to the Preakness right now, I think. If everything is well in the next week or so, there's a strong possibility we will run."

The work was the first for Multiplier since he won the Illinois Derby April 22 by a head over Hedge Fund, covering 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.98. Walsh said Multiplier may work again Sunday and probably ship to Pimlico next week.

Fern Circle Stables' Preakness candidate Senior Investment worked five furlongs in 1:00 2/5 under exercise rider Danny Ramsey Monday at Keeneland. It was the fastest of 18 works at the distance, with the clockers getting a gallop-out time of 1:13 4/5 for six furlongs.

"He worked super," trainer Kenny McPeek said. "He's pretty consistent. We didn't do anything special, but he's on his game right now. We're going to work him again next Sunday and then work on travel plans.

"It was a maintenance breeze. I told Danny to break him off, sit still, and let him do his own thing down the lane. He pretty much hit :12 [per eighth-mile] the whole way."

Senior Investment will remain at Keeneland until flying to Baltimore, according to McPeek. Channing Hill has the mount.

Jerry and Ann Moss' Royal Mo was excluded from the Kentucky Derby because of the points-system tiebreaker used to determine the 20th horse to get in the field. had a walk day on May 8 after working five furlongs 1:05 the day before at Churchill for trainer John Shirreffs. He is scheduled to fly to Baltimore on May 9, and Hall of Famer Gary Stevens has the Preakness mount.

On May 10, trainer Doug O'Neill notified Pimlico officials of his intention to run Term of Art in the Preakness. The Calumet Farm-owned son of Tiznow concluded his 2-year-old season with a win in the off-the-turf Cecil B. DeMille Stakes at Del Mar. He is  winless in four starts this year, with his best finish a third in the San Felipe behind Mastery and Iliad

"We think he's a talented colt who deserves a chance in this big race," O'Neill said. "We think he has classic-type ability and we're going to roll the dice."

Jose Ortiz will ride Term of Art in the Preakness.

O'Neill, who captured the Preakness with Kentucky Derby winner I'll Have Another in 2012, saddled Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist for a third-place finish last year. O'Neill's other Preakness starter, Goldencents, finished fifth in 2013.

– Additional reporting by BloodHorse staff

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