BALTIMORE – This year’s Triple Crown dream was interrupted under a dreary sky at Pimlico Race Course late Saturday afternoon.
Cloud Computing ($28.80) nailed a game Classic Empire by a head at the wire to win the 142nd Preakness.
It was a cool, cloudy afternoon at Pimlico, where the overcast sky became representative of the mood of the record 140,327 fans when Always Dreaming’s Triple Crown hopes ended at the aging Baltimore racetrack.
The win was the first Classic victory for trainer Chad Brown coming from his very first Preakness starter. The Mechanicville, N.Y. native lured top jockey Javier Castellano to ride the son of Maclean’s Music over his Derby mount, Gunnevera.
That decision proved lucrative for Brown, by receiving the services of the jockey whom will be enshrined in the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame in August in Saratoga later this summer. Castellano won his second Preakness, his first since 2006 when he was victorious aboard Bernardini in the ill-fated Barbaro Preakness.
Cloud Computing is co-owned by Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence. Both Seth Klarman from Klaravich and Lawrence are in the financial services industry. Lawrence, who went to Shaker High in suburban Albany, is the CEO of Meridian Capital Partners, a prominent hedge fund. Klarman, 59, is known as a value investing legend and manages $30 billion in assets.
Trainer Chad Brown was even-keeled after the race, doling out credit to everyone who was a part of the horse’s team. “He showed a lot of heart, this horse,” said Brown. “He deserves all the credit. I’m just so happy for the staff, for the horse, and for the owners Bill Lawrence and Seth Klarman,” said Brown.
He told a quick story about Klarman who grew up going to the races at Pimlico. “Particularly Seth, he’s put so much time and money into the game. He grew up in Baltimore. He was just telling me in the post parade, he says ‘look over there I used to have a seat in the infield for the Preakness, and now I’m here for the first time.’ He especially is very deserving of this,” said Brown.
The ownership duo also ran Practical Joke in the Kentucky Derby who produced a respectable fifth-place finish for the tandem.
The win was the first graded stake victory for Cloud Computing, who finished third in the Wood Memorial and second in the Gotham at Aqueduct while on the Derby trail. Brown and the ownership group was patient with the winner, deciding to skip the Derby and point to the Preakness where a smaller field awaited.
Klarman had no regrets passing on the Derby. "I think possibly some of the reason that we won today was because we were patient and didn't throw an inexperienced horse against a 20-horse field in the Derby on a very difficult track," said Klarman.
Cloud Computing went off at odds of 13-1 and completed the 1 3/16 mile trek in 1:55.98 on a fast track. The winner paid $8.60 to place and $6 to show. Classic Empire paid $4.40 to place and $4 to show and completed a $2 exacta that came back $98.40. Longshot Senior Investment paid $10.20 to show and completed a $2 trifecta that paid $2.194.60.
Cloud Computing’s win ended Always Dreaming’s bid to become the thirty-sixth horse to complete the Derby-Preakness double. Only 12 horses have gone on to complete the Triple Crown with a win in the Belmont Stakes in New York. The Derby winner finished eighth in the field of 10, fading after dueling with Classic Empire through the first mile of the race.
Classic Empire put away Always Dreaming at the top of the stretch and looked to have the race won opening up on the field. But a funny thing happened on the way to the finish line. The son of Pioneerof the Nile lost focus and started to wander a bit in the stretch allowing Cloud Computing to make a late run, collaring him at the sixteenth pole and overtaking him in the final fifty yards.
Trainer Mark Casse said the plan was to challenge Always Dreaming from the start. “I think we have the best two horses, let’s go at it,” said Casse. “My only disappointment was that Always Dreaming didn’t carry us a little farther. As we know, he tends to wander a little bit, and he got to wandering.”
A disappointed Mark Casse went on to explain what happens to last year’s 2-year-old champion when he’s not being pushed by a rival horse. “He starts seeing things and stops paying attention,” said Casse. “You could see Julien (Leparoux) getting after him, like come on, come on, we’re not done. He thought he was done, but I’m still so proud of him,” said a dejected Casse.
Leparoux, seeking his first Classic win, was equally disappointed after the race. “It was a good trip; it was the one we wanted. We just couldn’t hold off the inner, that’s it,” said Leparoux.
Third-place finisher Senior Investment went off at nearly 32-1, held off Lookin at Lee for the show. He’s a horse to watch heading into the final leg of the Triple Crown series at Belmont Park in three weeks.
Trainer Kenny McPeek was happy with Senior Investment’s race. “He’s a really good horse with a huge future and I think we’re just getting started with him,” said McPeek. “A mile and a half ad the Belmont is going to be really up his alley,” he said.
Trainer Todd Pletcher had no excuses for Always Dreaming after the race. “He ran so hard in the Derby and today just wasn’t his day,” said Pletcher. “He didn’t seem to relish the track, but I don’t really think that was it. It was just that he put so much into the Derby that it wasn’t meant to be,” said Pletcher.
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez knew the Kentucky Derby winner was up against it early in the race. “I knew I was in trouble on the backstretch when the other horse got to him, almost head to head, and engaged him. I knew he didn’t have it,” said Velazquez. “That’s horse racing.”
The finish was epic and will be remembered for a patient ride by Javier Castellano and an excellent training job by Chad Brown for a couple of hedge fund financiers.
One just had to look up into the cloudy sky for a clue to the day’s biggest equine winner.
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association and tweets @EquiSpace.