weather icon Mostly Cloudy
RJ App
Vegas News, Alerts, ePaper

Preakness questions immediately face Always Dreaming

Updated May 11, 2017 - 7:28 pm

After Always Dreaming crossed the finish line first in the Kentucky Derby, the first question was, “Is he good enough to win the Triple Crown.”

The next leg is the Preakness at Pimlico on May 20.

Winning trainer Todd Pletcher was a low percentage — 1-for-45 in the Kentucky Derby. After Saturday, he was 2-for-48. You could see him in the postrace visuals on NBC Sports looking as if the weight of the world had been taken off his shoulders.

On a local radio show, I had compared Pletcher to college basketball coach John Calipari of Kentucky. Both get the best available young talent to work with.

Calipari has won the NCAA title once. But it feels like he has underachieved because of how many of his players have stellar NBA careers.

Pletcher had one Derby victory with Super Save in 2010. Despite all of the Eclipse Awards his horses have won, it felt as if he had underachieved, too. Now with his second Derby win, that burden is gone.

That shows us how important the Derby is to the public. Trainer Bob Baffert has said that when he gets recognized in public, people will ask, “Didn’t you win the Kentucky Derby?” They don’t ask if he won a Breeders’ Cup race or another Grade 1 stakes.

So now it is on to Baltimore and the Preakness. Always Dreaming has shipped to “Old Hilltop,” where he will face some Derby survivors plus some new shooters.

After the Derby, I like to watch it several times and focus on a different horse each time. In a 20-horse field, there are trouble trips galore.

I suggest you do the same. Or at a minimum, review the Derby result chart and read the comments. It is staggering how many horses got into trouble.

The list includes Classic Empire, Tapwrit, Gunnevera, McCraken, Irish War Cry, Hence, Girvin, Patch and Irap. Some of these will run in the Preakness, some will await the Belmont Stakes, and others, such as McCraken, will need time off to heal.

Always Dreaming became the fifth consecutive favorite to win the Derby. I wrote last week that this trend coincides with Churchill Downs’ switch to a Derby point system rather than using graded earnings to make the field.

The Preakness is a shorter race than the Derby and by far the most formful leg of the Triple Crown. The Derby winner has a high strike rate, which would lead to a Triple Crown hopeful in the Belmont.

NBC Sports reported its Derby ratings were up more than 10 percent over last year. The overall handle at Churchill Downs and in Nevada with up, too.

This is too small a sample to hang your hat on. But big event days and boutique meets show that million of fans still follow horse racing and enjoy a quality product.

Preakness seminar

The South Point will host a Preakness handicapping seminar at 6 p.m. May 19. Ralph Siraco of the Race Day Las Vegas radio show will host. Guest handicappers include Southern California clocker Donald Harris and South Point house handicapper Patrick McQuiggan.

Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. You can buy his Santa Anita Park picks at racedaylasvegas.com. You can email him at rich_eng@hotmail.com and follow @richeng4propick on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Irish War Cry due for good race, pick to win Belmont

With Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and Preakness champion Cloud Computing skipping the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, the Triple Crown races will produce three different winners for the second consecutive year.

This weekend is filled with festival-style horse racing

Today the trend is for racetracks to cluster their stakes in a festival-style program. Thus, the Met Mile will be among nine graded stakes on the Belmont Stakes card June 10.

Always Dreaming’s Preakness run proves ‘horses are human’

Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming by various accounts came bouncing out of Churchill Downs in good order. His Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher felt good about his preparation.

Kentucky Derby offers clues for Preakness winner

Always Dreaming is the horse the racing industry will be rooting for. A win in the Preakness sets up another Triple Crown chance in the Belmont Stakes on June 10.

McCraken gets nod to win Kentucky Derby

Many experts are calling this the most wide-open Kentucky Derby in years. When I hear that, I get cynical. Wide open was in 2009 when Mine That Bird destroyed the field at 50-1 odds.

Kentucky Derby week means betting seminars in Las Vegas

The Kentucky Derby attracts the most novice and casual bettors of any race in our sport. With that in mind, there are all kinds of free Derby seminars next week.

Patience is necessary for future bets in horse racing

I love making future bets, not only in horse racing but also other sports. That’s because horseplayers learn a basic tenet early on. Our goal is to bet a little to win a lot.

‘Super Saturday’ should solidify Kentucky Derby field for many horses

When the folks at Churchill Downs dreamed up the Kentucky Derby points system, I was skeptical at first. Not anymore. It has worked by producing fields of in-form horses that, for the most part, are also bred to race two turns.