Cloud Computing edges Classic Empire in Preakness Stakes; Always Dreaming fades


BALTIMORE – Chad Brown grew up wanting to be a horse trainer; Seth Klarman always has been into finance. Both have reached the top of their professions by focusing more on long-term profit than short-term gain, and their approach was rewarded gloriously on Saturday at Pimlico Race Course when the lightly raced Cloud Computing won the 142nd Preakness Stakes, a race in which Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming faded to eighth.

Brown, last year’s Eclipse Award-winning trainer, never has won the Derby, so the temptation had to be strong to run both Practical Joke and Cloud Computing – both owned by Klarman and William Lawrence – both of whom had enough points to run in the Derby two weeks ago. But since Cloud Computing had only raced three times since his debut on Feb. 11, Brown thought it smarter to give Cloud Computing more time and await the Preakness. Practical Joke was their sole representative in the Derby, and he finished fifth.

Klarman, one of the world’s most respected value investors whose successful hedge fund, Baupost Group, has made him a billionaire, also never has won the Derby, but he also never had won the Preakness, a race close to his heart, as he grew up only blocks from Pimlico. He agreed with Brown to run Practical Joke in the Derby and hold over Cloud Computing for the Preakness.

The final piece of their winning team was jockey Javier Castellano, who was committed to Gunnevera for the Derby but jumped off that colt for the opportunity to ride Cloud Computing for the first time in the Preakness.

And then Cloud Computing stepped up, as they hoped. Though he was the least-experienced horse in the field, he ran like a seasoned veteran right from the start. An alert beginning enabled Castellano to get an ideal stalking trip behind Always Dreaming and Classic Empire, who took it to Always Dreaming as soon as the gates opened.

Classic Empire got the best of that duel and kicked clear in upper stretch, but Cloud Computing ran him down in the final furlong to win by a head before an announced crowd of 140,327. It was another 4 3/4 lengths back to Senior Investment, then came Lookin At Lee, Gunnevera, Multiplier, Conquest Mo Money, Always Dreaming, Hence, and Term of Art.

Cloud Computing, sent off at 13-1, paid $28.80 for $2 to win. He covered 1 3/16 miles on a track rated fast in 1:55.98 and earned $900,000 from a gross purse of $1.5 million.

Bringing in a fresh horse, Brown said, was “part of our strategy.”

“Classic Empire and Always Dreaming are two outstanding horses, and our strategy was, if we are ever going to beat them, let’s take them on on two weeks’ rest when we have six, and it worked,” Brown said.

Always Dreaming and Classic Empire were two of five horses in this Preakness who had run in the Derby 14 days earlier. Classic Empire was fourth in the Derby after being mugged at the start, but he was into the race immediately on Saturday, going right with Always Dreaming.

Always Dreaming, the 6-5 favorite, led narrowly through fractions of 23.16 seconds for the quarter, 46.81 seconds for the half, and 1:11 for the first six furlongs, a sharp pace. Too sharp, it turned out, for Always Dreaming, who was starting to struggle under jockey John Velazquez on the final turn.

Classic Empire was sent along at that point by jockey Julien Leparoux, and when the field turned into the stretch after a mile in 1:36.63, it looked like last year’s champion 2-year-old male was headed for victory. But Cloud Computing angled out and made up a three-length deficit in the final furlong.

“He rode an excellent race,” Brown said of Castellano.

Classic Empire likely deserved a better fate, for he had to run hard every step of the way. His journey this spring has not been ideal, with interrupted training and hoof and back injuries, but this was by far his best race since his victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile 28 weeks ago. His trainer, Mark Casse, said he thought Classic Empire might have lasted if Always Dreaming hadn’t faded so soon.

“I thought if that horse had carried us a little bit further, we could have been all right,” Casse said.

Always Dreaming, who had won four straight races, was returning on two weeks’ rest for the first time in his career and could not handle that nor the early pressure from a top-class rival.

“When he hooked us and the horse didn’t respond the way you’d want, I knew then we didn’t have it today,” said his trainer, Todd Pletcher.

“He showed in the Derby he’s capable of handling pace pressure,” said Pletcher, adding that “maybe the quick turnaround, maybe a different surface” were reasons for the subpar effort.

His defeat ends any hope of a Triple Crown bid in the Belmont Stakes in three weeks, and considering how Always Dreaming ran on Saturday, and how Cloud Computing ran his best race with plenty of time between starts, it’s quite likely that this Belmont will not have the Derby nor Preakness winner.

While this was the first win in a Triple Crown race of any kind for Brown, it was the second Preakness win for Castellano, whose only prior Preakness win, with Bernardini in 2006, also came with a horse who skipped the Derby.

Klarman had attended many a Preakness before, starting as a youth gambling from the infield. He plays at a different level now, and this win was satisfying not only because of the location but also because he turns 60 on Sunday.

“I grew up three blocks from here,” Klarman said. “I came to the Preakness many, many times.”

“I’m so happy for him because he grew up in this town, Baltimore, and I know it’s huge for him,” Castellano said.

Cloud Computing, a son of Maclean’s Music, was purchased for Klarman – who races as Klaravich Stables – and Lawrence as a yearling by Brown and bloodstock agent Mike Ryan for $200,000, reflecting Klarman’s value approach to acquiring horses, as he’d rather have 10 at that price that one at $2 million. Cloud Computing was close to racing last summer at Saratoga before an ankle chip sidelined him for the rest of the year.

He did not make his first start until Feb. 11, when he defeated maidens going six furlongs at Aqueduct. He was immediately stepped up to stakes company and finished second in the Grade 3 Gotham on March 4. He came back on April 8 in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial and finished third.

“We just ran out of time” to make the Derby, Brown said.

For the Preakness, though, time was on their side. Their investment paid off.