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NBC Horse Racing Analyst Laffit Pincay III Breaks Down Preakness Field

May 18, 2017
NBC horse racing analyst Laffit Pincay III joined Glenn Clark Radio May 17 to break down the field for the 142nd running of the Preakness Stakes, which takes place May 20 at Pimlico Race Course. Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming is a 4-5 morning-line favorite to win and will start from the fourth post. 

Here are some of the highlights:

PressBox: Do you get the sense that there isn't the overwhelming respect for Always Dreaming that other Derby winners have had?

Laffit Pincay III: I find that any Kentucky Derby run on a wet track, there's kind of a "yeah, but ..." narrative that follows. I think we saw the same thing with Mine That Bird [in 2009], obviously, he was 50-1. We saw the same thing with Super Saver, and Super Saver did come up short in a big way in the Preakness in 2010. I think Always Dreaming is … I don't know that it's a lack of respect, but as much praise as a Kentucky Derby winner can receive, yeah, maybe he's still a little bit underrated. We've seen him in four starts this year, he's won by a combined, I don't know, what is it, 23, 24 lengths? Every test he steps up, thrives and is that much more impressive in each of his subsequent races. Whether it was his allowance race at Gulfstream Park on a slow track, his Florida Derby win on a fast track, he's shown he can go wire to wire, he's shown he can stalk. His win in the Derby on a wet, wet race track. There aren't any vulnerabilities. And while he is a speed-oriented race horse, that ability to track and sit just off the pace -- you see those horses that tear out there and try to go wire to wire and "come and catch me if you can," they're always going to be vulnerable to those rabbit tactics. They're going to be vulnerable to pace. Where Always Dreaming, not only is he blessed with the God-given ability, he creates his own luck, and there's something to be said for that. 

PB: Is there another horse that might be as good as Always Dreaming but might not have gotten the opportunity to prove it because of the weather or the nature of the field at the Kentucky Derby?

LP: I think that there needs to be a real respect/fear factor where Classic Empire is concerned. He got just crushed leaving the starting gate. And it really didn't seem fair. The Casses -- Mark Casse and Norm Casse -- that train Classic Empire, they had dealt with so much this past winter. He was the early winter book favorite for the Derby, he's the reigning 2-year-old champion and he promptly gets smoked in his 3-year-old debut. And he has a foot abscess. And then he has back trouble, and then he's refusing to work. They had to go all the way back to the drawing board, take him back to a quiet spot in Ocala [Fla.] and start training him up for his final Kentucky Derby prep race. He missed a prep race. So now they have to get points. And it kind of felt like right at the buzzer -- they hit a buzzer-beater winning that Arkansas Derby. And everything was finally kind of going their way just in time. And they're in the gate and he's a major contender in the Derby, and he just gets wiped out and loses all chance at the start. He runs fourth on class alone. And if I was associated with Always Dreaming in any capacity -- I think the general tone out of the Classic Empire camp -- that would scare me. It's very matter-of-fact. They're not making excuses. It's not, "Damn, we didn't win the Derby" It's like, "All right, we'll see you next time. We want Always Dreaming to have a clean trip, we want Classic Empire to have a clean trip and we'll see who's best." Very stoic, stoic narrative coming out of the Classic Empire camp. 

PB: Let's say Always Dreaming and Classic Empire both get good trips. What's your gut?

LP: I think you see something special. I'm not saying it's Sunday Silence/Easy Goer and that kind of epic stretch duel, but I'll Have Another/Bodemeister comes to mind, Street Sense/Curlin comes to mind. I think there's a clear cut -- they're the top tier. I believe Always Dreaming is the better of the two, but closer than you think. I keep thinking back to the stretch drive of the '07 Preakness, where Street Sense got the best of Curlin in the Derby and [trainer] Steve Asmussen was saying, "You know, that was only Curlin's fourth career start" or whatever it was and, "he went into that race a boy and came out a man." And we saw that Curlin was able to dispatch of Street Sense at Pimlico. I don't think Classic Empire beats Always Dreaming, but I do think Always Dreaming is going to have his hands full and have to work very hard to beat Classic Empire.

PB: Are any of the new shooters factors?

LP: Yes. Conquest Mo Money is legit. I guess they felt the three weeks in between the Arkansas Derby and the Kentucky Derby was too small of a window. He wasn't nominated for the Derby, so it would have cost $200,000 for him to run in the Derby. But they still had to cough up $150,000 for him to run in the Preakness and/or Belmont. While Classic Empire wasn't 100 percent just yet in terms of fitness -- his first start in a couple of months -- Conquest Mo Money was what, a length-and-a-half back or whatever it was? He keeps running to the level of his competition. He's an overachiever. And if he breaks sharp and makes the lead, I think it would be very naive to let him go out there and just crawl or set his own pace and tempo. He's a really good 3-year-old and he's had a little bit more time to recover from the Arkansas Derby. 

For more from Pincay, listen to the full interview here: