Always Dreaming, coming off an impressive win at the Kentucky Derby, will get an early start on preparations for the May 20 Preakness.
The colt is expected to arrive at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore on Tuesday morning, hoping to avoid some early struggles adjusting to Churchill Downs when he arrived in Kentucky.
Always Dreaming ran through a soggy track to win the Kentucky Derby by 2 3/4 lengths on Saturday, giving trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez their second victories in the race but their first together.
Always Dreaming opened a clear lead in the stretch and finished the 1 1/4 miles in 2 minutes, 3.59 seconds. He paid $11.40 as the 9-2 favorite.
"It feels awesome," Pletcher said Sunday morning, via the Baltimore Sun. "I think it's still sinking in. The first one's special but this one is just as good or even better. We felt coming in we had a good chance and we had some anxious moments during the week. But we were just happy to see him deliver the performance we felt he was capable of."
Pletcher had to make adjustments with the workouts leading up to the Derby as Always Dreaming refused to relax.
The trainer has decided to give the champion almost two weeks to adjust to Pimlico. Pletcher said Always Dreaming will gallop daily at Pimlico rather than a harder, timed workout.
"He was so headstrong when he got here (for the Derby) that I don't think staying here for another week is going to be an advantage," Pletcher said Sunday morning. "I don't think going to Belmont for a week and then moving again is an advantage. So just looking at what the options are, I think Pimlico, there aren't usually a lot of horses training there, and it'll be a quiet environment. It'll give us time to settle in and if we need to, make any adjustments."
Pletcher is winless in eight attempts at the Preakness. His previous Derby winner, Super Saver, finished a disappointing eighth at Pimlico in 2010.
Always Dreaming will be in Stall 40 at Pimlico, the corner spot traditionally reserved for the Derby winner.
"I think we want to follow the tradition," Pletcher said. "That stall's been successful plenty of times. And Pimlico is usually great. They're very accommodating."
The field for the 142nd Preakness is already taking shape.
Derby runner-up Lookin At Lee is "definitely a possibility" to run, trainer Steve Asmussen said.
Classic Empire, the morning-line favorite and fourth-place finisher in the Derby, was bothered by a swollen right eye Sunday, trainer Mark Casse said, adding if the condition doesn't linger, he will strongly consider a shot at the Preakness.