Belmont may lack Preakness and Derby winners
BALTIMORE – Cloud Computing, winner of Saturday's Preakness Stakes, emerged from the race in good condition, but his status for the Belmont Stakes is undecided, trainer Chad Brown said Sunday.
That mirrors the status of Always Dreaming, the Kentucky Derby winner who was eighth in the Preakness, setting up the very real possibility neither will be in the Belmont, the final leg of the Triple Crown, on June 10 at Belmont Park.
Brown returned to New York late Saturday night because he had a full slate of horses to work Sunday morning at Belmont Park. Cloud Computing left Pimlico early Sunday morning for a van ride to Belmont.
“So far it looks like he came out of the race in good order,” said Brown, who added he wanted to take a few days to look over Cloud Computing before firming up plans. He called his Belmont status “undecided.”
Brown likes to give his horses four to five weeks between starts - Cloud Computing produced a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 102 in the Preakness off a six-week rest - so it would not be surprising to see Cloud Computing pointed to something such as the Travers this summer at Saratoga, with a prep prior in something like the Jim Dandy, also at Saratoga.
Similarly, trainer Todd Pletcher also prefers to give his horses time between starts, and considering that Always Dreaming ran the worst race of his life on Saturday coming back on two weeks’ rest, it would be surprising to see him run in the Belmont three weeks hence.
Always Dreaming trained well into the Preakness, but the combination of coming back on short rest, coupled with pace pressure from a top-class rival in Classic Empire, seemed too much for him to overcome.
Pletcher, like Brown, said he wanted to get Always Dreaming back to Belmont Park and take a week or so before making a firm plan, but he said Always Dreaming seemed well physically.
“I thought he cooled-out well, he didn’t seem to be really distressed,” Pletcher said Sunday morning at Pimlico.
The Preakness was the first time Always Dreaming was running back on two weeks’ rest; he had a five-week gap going into the Derby. Pletcher’s previous Derby winner, Super Saver, also finished eighth in the Preakness and then skipped the Belmont.
If those two do skip the Belmont, the likely favorite would be Classic Empire. He just failed to hold off Cloud Computing after pressing a strong pace on Saturday when finishing second. His trainer, Mark Casse, on Sunday morning said “right now, there’s a very good shot” he will run in the Belmont.
“You know us, we like running,” he said.
Unlike in the Derby, in which Classic Empire was mugged leaving the gate, he had a clean trip Saturday.
“No regrets. I’m a very happy man today. He ran his race, had a fair shot, just got beat,” Casse said. “The Preakness was easier on him than the Derby. Right now, he’s at the top of his game.”
Classic Empire was scheduled to return to Casse’s base at Churchill Downs on Sunday.
Casse said he’d likely take blinkers off of Classic Empire for the Belmont. He said wearing blinkers might have prevented Classic Empire from realizing Cloud Computing was there until it was too late.
Casse said he had no problem with the tactics jockey Julien Leparoux used on Classic Empire.
“Julien rode him perfect,” he said.
Trainer Kenny McPeek, who won the 2002 Belmont with 70-1 shot Sarava, said Preakness third-place finisher Senior Investment would run in the Belmont. Senior Investment shipped to New York on Sunday, and McPeek said he would have two workouts before the race.
“We felt all along he wanted the mile and a half,” McPeek, referencing the Belmont distance, said at Pimlico Sunday morning. “The Belmont is tougher than this because the pace is very much slower. He just keeps coming. We talked about it before the race and said if he was fourth or better he’d punch his ticket.”
Lookin At Lee, fourth in the Preakness after finishing second in the Derby, also is Belmont-bound, trainer Steve Asmussen said Sunday morning.
“He’s vanning there today,” Asmussen said at Pimlico. “He’ll have one work, the Saturday a week out.”
Asmussen won last year’s Belmont with Creator. He’s hoping for a similar fate with Lookin At Lee.
“I want him rewarded on that stage, because of the qualities he has,” Asmussen said.
Trainer Antonio Sano said Gunnevera bled in the Preakness, where he finished fifth, beaten 5 1/4 lengths. Sano said Gunnevera would be vanned back to Gulfstream Park West on Monday and freshened for a summer campaign in Saratoga, where last summer he won the Grade 2 Saratoga Special.