Melissa Hoppert’s picks: Classic Empire, Always Dreaming, Cloud Computing
Here’s how we see the field:
Trainer: Brendan Walsh Jockey: Joel Rosario Odds: 30-1
Drape: He found his running shoes, winning his last two, including the Illinois Derby in April. Here’s your Indiana Derby winner.
Hoppert: The Illinois Derby field was mediocre at best, and his speed figures are well below those of the big names in this race.
2. Cloud Computing
Trainer: Chad Brown Jockey: Javier Castellano Odds: 12-1
Drape: This one is going to attract betting money because of the trainer-jockey combo, but that is not a prudent investment for a colt whose only win was a maiden sprint.
Hoppert: Of the so-called new shooters in the race, the lightly raced third-place Wood Memorial finisher is the most intriguing. He qualified for the Derby but was pointed toward this race instead, and Castellano chose him over Gunnevera, whom he rode to a seventh-place finish in the Derby.
Trainer: Steve Asmussen Jockey: Florent Geroux Odds: 20-1
Drape: Eleventh place in the Derby. Hence, he is slow.
Hoppert: The “wise guy pick” ahead of the Derby has more early speed than he flashed in that race, but will Geroux use it in the Preakness?
4. Always Dreaming
Trainer: Todd Pletcher Jockey: John Velazquez Odds: 4-5
Drape: I always root for the Derby winner, but this one looks a bit like the barn’s 2010 Derby champion, Super Saver. Both caught a wet track on Derby day and looked like swamp buggies. Alas, Super Saver caught a dry one here and finished eighth.
Hoppert: I’m not sure about that: Always Dreaming won his past four races, including the Derby, by an impressive 23¼ lengths, and all but the Derby were on a fast track. He is the one to beat for a reason, but I’m still not convinced he’s the next American Pharoah.
5. Classic Empire
Trainer: Mark Casse Jockey: Julien Leparoux Odds: 3-1
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!
Hoppert: Slammed by McCraken at the start of the Derby, he gamely rallied to finish fourth but came out of the race looking like a heavyweight fighter, with cuts and a swollen eye. With a clean trip, he is the big threat to Always Dreaming.
Trainer: Antonio Sano Jockey: Mike Smith Odds: 15-1
Drape: A nice horse that tries hard. But he may need a freshening after 10 races and an easier spot in, say, the Ohio Derby.
Hoppert: The seventh-place finisher in the Derby lost Castellano as his jockey, but he picks up Mike Smith, which is nothing to be upset about. Still, I think he’s going in the wrong direction.
7. Term of Art
Trainer: Doug O’Neill Jockey: Jose Ortiz Odds: 30-1
Drape: The colt has not won since November, but they sent him here for a reason. To boost their frequent-flier miles on the Tex Sutton transports?
Hoppert: The seventh-place finisher in the Santa Anita Derby is in way over his head. His trainer won the Preakness with I’ll Have Another in 2012, but this colt is no I’ll Have Another.
8. Senior Investment
Trainer: Ken McPeek Jockey: Channing Hill Odds: 30-1
Drape: Another closer that might clunk up for fourth place.
Hoppert: He won the Lexington Stakes in April with a furious rally, but nothing suggests he can hang with the big guns.
9. Lookin at Lee
Trainer: Steve Asmussen Jockey: Corey Lanerie Odds: 10-1
Drape: Remember Ice Box? Golden Soul? Commanding Curve? No one else does, either, because after finishing second in the Derby, none of them visited the winner’s circle again in a major race. He’s a good bet to join them.
Hoppert: The second-place Derby finisher was aided by a sloppy track that was playing kindly to runners on the rail. His sire, Lookin at Lucky, won the Preakness in 2010, but he will likely not follow in his footsteps.
10. Conquest Mo Money
Trainer: Miguel Hernandez Jockey: Jorge Carreno Odds: 15-1
Drape: This New York-bred, New Mexico-based colt has been hiding out in Iowa. Don’t laugh. He nearly pulled off a gate-to-wire theft in the Arkansas Derby until being caught in the final strides by Classic Empire. He’s fast, gutsy and is the most likely to upset the two favorites at juicy odds.
Hoppert: A son of Uncle Mo, he has won three races and placed in two others, including in the Arkansas Derby, which proved to be the key prep for the Kentucky Derby. He surely could hit the board.
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