With no Triple Crown in play, Belmont lacks a singular buzz

Javier Castellano celebrates after coming from behind to win with Cloud Computing in The Preakness Stakes.

It was the first Triple Crown victory for Cloud Computing's trainer, Chad Brown, and the second for Castellano, who won the Preakness in 2006 aboard Bernardini.

That's what lightly raced Cloud Computing was going into the 142nd running of the Preakness Stakes, a new shooter, but he came out the victor.

Brown returned to NY late Saturday night because he had a full slate of horses to work Sunday morning at Belmont Park. With every kiss Castellano blew into his horse's ear, Cloud Computing extended his stride.

Brown has won almost every major turf race in America, including seven Breeders' Cup races on grass and the Arlington Million, and has trained three Eclipse-Award-winning turf horses. His connections will make a final decision on his status for the Belmont Stakes by next weekend.

Cloud Computing may have emerged as an exciting 3-year-old prospect with his Preakness victory, but the build-up to the Belmont Stakes on June 10 will be considerably tamer without a horse with a chance to sweep the Triple Crown in the 11⁄2-mile classic. It looked as if Classic Empire would go on to win, but Cloud Computing ran him down on the outside. And we know why trainer Todd Pletcher usually skips the Preakness, because he doesn't like the short two-week turnaround from the Derby.

As expected, the Kentucky Derby victor Always Dreaming was sent along through early splits of 23.16 for the quarter, 46.81 for the half, and 1:11 for the first six furlongs. Classic Empire, under rider Julien Leparoux, has always hinted of sneaky speed. That strategy, bringing a fresh horse into the mix, often draws criticism at the Belmont Stakes when a Triple Crown is on the line, but you know what? "We just got beat", said trainer Mark Casse.

"We got the trip we wanted, outside Always Dreaming", Leparoux said.

Classic Empire is a colt who likes to run near the front, taking aim at the early leaders in the Derby. I'm happy for him and he grew up in this town, in Baltimore. The Derby and Preakness wins, however, don't change. "Right now, he's at the top of his game". But first, he was scheduled to van back to Churchill Downs Sunday evening.

"I was incredibly impressed with Classic Empire".

Cloud Computing owners William Lawrence (left) and Seth Klarman hold the Woodlawn Vase after Cloud Computing, ridden by Javier Castellano, won the 142. In Baltimore the path was clearer and Classic Empire delivered. Julien rode him flawless.

Other closers looking to pounce are Gunnevera (10th in the Derby), Hence (11th in the Derby) and new shooters Multiplier, Senior Investment and Term of Art. Senior Investment shipped to NY on Sunday, and McPeek said he would have two workouts before the race.

"We sit behind and watch", he said. "The Belmont is tougher than this because the pace is very much slower".

Pletcher was still struggling to find an obvious explanation for Always Dreaming's poor performance Saturday, but acknowledged that he was concerned with what he was seeing early in the race.

Lookin At Lee, the Derby runner-up, was 4th.

"He's vanning there today", Asmussen said at Pimlico.

Last year, Arrogate, the star of the 2016 class and current best horse in the world, did not fully emerge until summer. "Never imagined I'd own a horse, let alone be in the winner's circle of the Preakness". All of the dirt races before the Preakness were won by runners that were on the lead or close up.

  • Zachary Reyes