Classic Empire and Senior Investment, the respective runner-up and third-place finisher from Saturday’s 142nd running of the Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico, are expected to show back up for the third leg of the Triple Crown at Belmont Park on June 10.
The duo could join Preakness winner Cloud Computing for a rematch in the 149th edition of the Belmont Stakes (G1).
Classic Empire pressed the early pace set by Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Always Dreaming on the Preakness backstretch before taking over rounding the final turn. The bay son of Pioneerof the Nile drew off by three lengths in the stretch, but was run down by Cloud Computing, who secured the head victory on the wire.
“We came over, we were ready. He ran his race. We had a fair shot,” trainer Mark Casse said. “We just got beat. I didn’t even know who was coming; I really didn’t care who was coming. I just knew somebody was coming.”
Despite the loss, Casse was pleased with his charge’s performance.
“Two things in my opinion: One, I read where someone said the two weeks (between races) got him beat. Baloney,” Casse said while he was holding Classic Empire outside the Preakness Stakes barn on Sunday. “And he was a better horse yesterday than he was two weeks ago for the Kentucky Derby. (Jockey) Julien (Leparoux) rode him perfect.
“The only thing, if Always Dreaming had carried him a little farther, I think he probably wins. But he didn’t, and so we go on. He tried to re-engage. That horse had some momentum on him; he ran a great race, too.”
Casse said Classic Empire was scheduled to van back to Churchill Downs Sunday evening, and that the stable “will be looking for the same thing we always look for,” in regards to running in the Belmont Stakes next.
“The good news is both eyes are open this morning, which I knew was going to be the case because he didn’t get all the dirt in the Preakness,” Casse laughed, referring to Classic Empire’s eye being swollen shut the morning after running in a sloppy Kentucky Derby.
Senior Investment was likewise doing well on Sunday, trainer Kenny McPeek reported.
“He’s great this morning,” said McPeek. “Our plan is to run (in the Belmont Stakes).”
Senior Investment was scheduled to depart Pimlico early Sunday morning for a van ride to Belmont Park.
While Senior Investment was making his classic debut in the Preakness, Classic Empire entered the race off a fourth-place run in the Kentucky Derby.
Among those beating him in the Run for the Roses was Lookin at Lee, who switched spots with Classic Empire on Saturday by finishing fourth in the Preakness for trainer Steve Asmussen.
Now targeting the Belmont as well, Lookin at Lee was scheduled to van from Pimlico to Big Sandy on Sunday. Stablemate Hence, who ran ninth in the Preakness, is headed to Churchill Downs.
Asmussen, who indicated both his charges exited the Preakness in good order, thinks the Belmont is wide open at this point.
“There’s nobody overcoming anything,” he said. “It’s just how it works out, and circumstances of the day that’s sorting them out.
“I watched the replay repeatedly last night. You loved the position the winner was in the way things played. (When jockey Javier Castellano on Cloud Computing looked back at the three-eighths pole) you knew he had options. That was the moment when the race changed. Always Dreaming had come off the bit and Javier is looking back with horses in front of him. They usually feel pretty confident (when they do that).
“Classic Empire ran a solid race again. He’ll probably be the favorite going forward, and he’s got a second and a fourth in two Triple Crown races – just like Lookin at Lee has.
“(Lookin at Lee is) just a horse who always does what he can do, and we’re proud of him for that,” Asmussen added. “But with a horse that is as pace-dependent as he is, there are a lot of things that are out of his hands. You don’t get a tremendous amount of variable. What you get is circumstances, the things that are out of his control: the track condition and pace scenario.”
Asmussen has a connection to Preakness winner Cloud Computing in that he trained that colt’s sire, Maclean’s Music, in that horse’s one and only start, which resulted in a 7 1/4-length victory.
“They’re both beautiful horses,” Asmussen said of Maclean’s Music and Cloud Computing. “He makes a great presence. He is a horse that I’ve watched because he is by Maclean’s Music. He has a really attractive way of going. It’s a super deal for Maclean’s Music’s first crop to have a classic winner.”
Always Dreaming, Classic Empire, Gunnevera, Hence and Lookin at Lee were the only runners from the Kentucky Derby to contest the Preakness. It now appears that Lookin at Lee and Classic Empire will be the only ones to take part in all three legs of this year’s Triple Crown, but that doesn’t surprise Asmussen.
“My opinion is that those are horses with established two-year-old form,” he said. “That these races don’t necessarily adjust who they are as much as lighter-raced horses. You’re looking at horses that traveled at two, ran at as high a level as we have, so you’re not surprised. And they’ve been able to maintain themselves physically. That puts them in a different position than horses who have not consistently run on that stage. The credit goes to these horses.”
Gunnevera is one of the Derby/Preakness five who will be skipping Belmont. The Antonio Sano trainee exited his Preakness fifth in good order.
“He came out of it very good,” said Sano’s son, Alessandro. “We’ll bring him back to Florida and give him some rest. We’ll look at some of the three-year-old races later in the summer.”
Gunnevera was scheduled to begin his van ride back to Sano’s Gulfstream Park West stable Sunday evening.
Illinois Derby (G3) hero Multiplier vanned to Keeneland after running sixth in the Preakness and is under consideration for the Belmont Stakes, according to trainer Brendan Walsh.
“I thought he finished up really well,” Walsh said. “He seems fine, but it just looked like he needed more ground. There’s a race for that down the road (Belmont Stakes). We’ll regroup and see what the owners want to do. I wasn’t disappointed in him.”
Grade 1-placed multiple stakes winner Conquest Mo Money is likewise eyeing a return in the Belmont Stakes. The Miguel Hernandez trainee, who finished seventh in the Preakness, exited the race in good order and was scheduled to leave Pimlico for the barn of trainer Tres Abbott at Fair Hill Training Center Sunday afternoon.
“I’m a little disappointed,” admitted Hernandez, who remains the trainer of Conquest Mo Money. “He broke slow and I think he needs to be close, third or fourth at the most. He was way behind and out of the picture. The rider said the horse wasn’t ready for the break. When that happened and he was so far back, I don’t think he tried like he used to.”
Southern California-based Term of Art, last in the 10-horse Preakness field on Saturday, departed early Sunday morning for his long cross-country trip home.
“I don’t know. I’ll have to discuss it with (owner) Calumet,” trainer Doug O’Neill said in regards to what’s next for the Tiznow colt. “He’ll be scoped to make sure no issues are going on and play it by ear.”