Pletcher confident of Derby winner at Preakness

Preakness Stakes contender Classic Empire walks onto the track as the sun rises at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore Wednesday

Preakness Stakes contender Classic Empire walks onto the track as the sun rises at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore Wednesday

He's started 48 Kentucky Derby horses but only ran three back in the Preakness.

His nine opponents - including four returnees from the Derby - are ready for the colt's front-running tactics. He may work out the ideal stalking trip and save ground racing behind front runners Conquest Mo Money and Always Dreaming.

LP: I think that there needs to be a real respect/fear factor where Classic Empire is concerned. Classic Empire did not necessarily have to get to the lead early, but he needed to establish his own pace if he was going to have a chance to mount a late run that would result in a victory.

"It's a totally different race, but I love the way my horse finishes". When we made the change at Churchill [Downs], we needed to get get [the horse] under control, needed to get him slowed down a little bit. He's a tough son-of-a-gun. "It's just in a lot of cases we felt like that our horses need a little more time to recover, and not all of them have bounced out of the Derby as well as it seems like Dreaming has so far". He will be next door to Always Dreaming in post No. 5. The forecast for this year's race calls for temperatures in the 70s and a 20 percent chance of rain. Senior Investment, an allowance victor at Oaklawn in February, beats Always Dreaming in a photo for third.

"He's done great [at Pimlico]", Pletcher said, per Mike Dempsey of OddsShark. "He's always at the front of the stall, has his head out and his ears up and taking in the scenery". His Derby victory was impressive and marked his fourth straight triumph, all since switching to trainer Todd Pletcher's barn previous year.

Conquest Mo Money, the Sunland Derby and Arkansas Derby runner-up, is the first classic starter for 81-year-old owner Tom McKenna, trainer Miguel Hernandez and jockey Jorge Carreno.

"Classic Empire being the 2-year-old champ and having a troubled trip, you have to worry about him", Pletcher said. "I think it'll be a great race".

While lacking the stature of the Kentucky Derby and the possibility of consummating the Triple Crown that the Belmont may offer, those that really know believe The Preakness Stakes is the best race of the Triple Crown.

"Our home base is Belmont, and it's a special race for us", Pletcher said of the Belmont Stakes, the third leg of the Triple Crown. His best finish was third with Impeachment in 2000. Gunnevera, like Classic Empire, had to deal with traffic soon after leaving the starting gate in the Kentucky Derby. Super Saver raced forwardly for a mile, but stopped at the top of the stretch and finished eighth.

Pletcher "had" to run just one Derby horse in the Preakness.

State of Honor ended up beating one horse, and that was Dubai import Thunder Snow, which started bucking out of the gate and was pulled up.

The field looks pretty strong, with Kentucky Derby victor Always Dreaming facing Derby morning line favorite Classic Empire, along with a few other entrants from the Run to the Roses. Conquest Mo Money will likely be tasked with keeping Always Dreaming honest early, but the pace should not be that rapid.

The Preakness? It's simply a horse race, probably the fairest test of running ability of the Triple Crown races spread over five weeks.

The storied Kentucky stable also has Term of Art, trained by 2012 Preakness victor Doug O'Neill.

Brendan Walsh-trained Multiplier is expected to arrive later in the day following a van ride from Keeneland in Lexington, Ky.

At issue first among many things, is whether or not Always Dreaming can repeat his winning performances in his last 2 starts, The Florida Derby and The Kentucky Derby. Hollendorfer was proud of his horse's Derby performance at 40-1 odds. "A horse will throw you off, you won't thing the horse is that good and they run in the afternoon really well".