Pletcher, for owners MeB Racing, Brooklyn Boyz Stables, Teresa Viola, St. Elias Stable, Siena Farm, and West Point Thoroughbreds, has been pleased with Always Dreaming's morning exercise since the Kentucky Derby.
His nine opponents - including four returnees from the Derby - are ready for the colt's front-running tactics.
The 142nd running of the Preakness Stakes gets underway on Saturday night at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.
If he runs a good race and holds off Classic Empire, then he will be two-thirds of the way home to the Triple Crown heading into the Belmont.
Jockey Corey Lanerie is tasked with riding Lookin At Lee at Pimlico, and he compared the horse to the one he partnered in last year's Preakness, Cherry Wine, on which he came second for trainer Dale Romans.
His trainer, Mark Casse, said this to reporters Thursday: "He had so many things go wrong, any of which could have cost him the race".
"We just want a fair shot at it", said Casse, who believes his horse didn't get to show his best effort after getting slammed coming out of the starting gate on a sloppy track that day. "This is a good experience for us", Hernandez said. It wouldn't be shocking if Classic Empire makes it close, but Always Dreaming should prevail. A fast track is anticipated. Always Dreaming's talent is unquestioned. "We run a lot on weekends, so there are a lot of weekends, you know I'm not complaining, but I've got to be glued to the computer or glued to the TV, sending e-mails and making sure people know what's going on". Most likely, these two will go to the early lead and the race could very well turn into a match race. Had he avoided trouble early, it would have been a more competitive race and he might have caught the victor. The tank seems full.
"His energy level was immediately good and has remained so throughout".
The Preakness represents the final Triple Crown race hurdle for Velazquez, but he is plenty experienced, with top-five finishes in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2016. He's 0 for 8 in the race, with his best finish being third with Impeachment in 2000.
The other Kentucky Derby horse - Lookin At Lee - finished second as a 31-1 long shot breaking from the doomed rail post.
Notes: Super Saver headed into the Preakness as the favorite but faded and finished eighth out of 12 entrants.
The two likely favorites, Always Dreaming and Classic Empire, will break from posts No. 4 and No. 5, respectively.
The jockey has a pretty good record in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness: In his only mount, he was second previous year on 17-1 shot Cherry Wine, who like Lookin At Lee is a late closer.
That is an ominous sign for Always Dreaming's rivals, however, the market does give Classic Empire ($4) every chance of cutting him down. The question is if Always Dreaming will still be flawless on his Triple Crown quest. Just look at the Breeders Cup [where he won the Juvenile]. The five-year-old son of Ghostzapper won the Santa Anita Handicap earlier this year.
I like longshot SENIOR INVESTMENT to clunk up and hit the board. But Pletcher has made a habit of skipping Baltimore in order to beat the pack to his home base of NY after the Kentucky Derby and await the Belmont.
Lukas said Always Dreaming looks even better than he did in the days before the Derby. "I don't think we've seen anywhere near the bottom". That's not to say I don't want you to read on for my picks, but let's face it, this is not the most highly-anticipated race in the history of the Sport of Kings!
Six-time Preakness winning trainer D.