The heavy betting favorite for the 2017 Preakness Stakes is Always Dreaming. That became a certainty about the moment his nose crossed the finish line at Churchill Downs first on the first Saturday in May. After Preakness post positions were drawn on Wednesday, he was slotted in at 4/5 odds.
And with good reason. Always Dreaming put up fast runs in the Florida Derby in April and the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago, winning both with plenty of space to spare before his closest competition.
But this isn’t a Triple Crown coronation in waiting, and Classic Empire’s connections have their eyes set on bringing the second jewel of the Triple Crown back to their own trophy case. Though he started poorly at Churchill Downs, he closed well to finish fourth. And the half-brother of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah is plenty enough horse to win. He was given 3/1 morning line odds and should be a popular betting pick, as well.
You can watch the Preakness on NBC with coverage beginning at 5 p.m. ET. The race is set to go to post at approximately 6:45 p.m. You can stream it live online using NBC Sports Live Extra.
But what do the experts say? Here’s a selection of picks for your pleasure:
Bram Weinstein, America’s Best Racing — Classic Empire
“Classic Empire. The trip shouldn’t be an issue and I doubt, starting midpack, he’ll have to be too far off the pace. But this thing is going to have a wild finish. I don’t expect him to win by more than a length at most, and the race for the wire is going to be a sight to see.”
Aaron Halterman, Thoroughbred Racing Dudes — Always Dreaming
“Most people seem to feel the same way I do about this horse when it comes to the Preakness. He’s certainly the most likely winner, he looks to be in the best form out of anyone, he’s been perfect in 2017, and he’s getting better with every race, BUT can Todd Pletcher get this horse to win off of two weeks’ rest? ... Have faith that Pletcher will get the job done. If the horse is good enough, he’ll have every chance to win. Expect a solid effort.”
Joe Drape and Melissa Hoppert, New York Times — Classic Empire
Joe Drape and Melissa Hoppert both took Classic Empire to win.
Drape: “The 2-year-old champion has had to overcome injury, a disdain for training, and a rough rodeo-style trip in the Derby. Still, he’s the most talented of his generation and is ready to fire. NOW!”
Brian Zipse, Horse Racing Nation — Classic Empire
“With little early pace in this one, look for him to use his good natural speed to sit in a garden spot stalking trip just behind the Kentucky Derby winner. That will give him every opportunity to remind the world just how classy he really is when the real running begins. If he can get by the top two, I would suspect the race is his. A repeat exacta of the Arkansas Derby may well be in the cards. The Old Baltimore Bounce Back.”
Jason Frakes, Louisville Courier-Journal — Classic Empire
“With half the horses, there’s less chance Classic Empire encounters the trouble he faced in the Derby. Still believe he’s most talented 3-year-old racing right now, but he’s running out of time to prove it.”
Kurt Mensching, SB Nation — Always Dreaming
This seems like a tough one and a simple one both. The simple side of things: Don’t overthink this. Always Dreaming and Classic Empire were the best two horses in the field in the Kentucky Derby, and they’re the best two in the field here. One of them will win. I would give Always Dreaming a slight edge to win and call him my official pick, but if I were a gambler I’d put money down on Classic Empire instead. In any case, we should be treated to a fun finish in this one.