John Oxley’s Classic Empire (Pioneerof the Nile) will most likely ship to Baltimore for a tilt at the May 20 GI Preakness S., trainer Mark Casse confirmed Monday, two days after last year’s juvenile champion overcame a troubled trip to finish fourth in the GI Kentucky Derby. The colt came out of Saturday’s race with inflammation in his right eye, but Casse said the eye was “100% better” and “we’re going to start planning our trip to Pimlico.”
Casse added, “I’d say we’re 90% to go. Obviously we need to see how he continues to recover. Eyes can be really scary. We’re going to monitor that hourly, and as long as that goes OK, I’d love to run back in the Preakness.”
Of Classic Empire’s Derby performance, Casse said, “First thing Julien [Leparoux] said to me was, ‘I don’t know how we didn’t go down.’ He said he really got hit hard. Anybody who has ever had the wind knocked out of him, you have to wonder about that as well.’ He has about four or five abrasions on his right front–one was pretty close to needing stitches. He’s a warrior. But it already looks better today. Honestly, I think our horse probably got more respect out of that performance from anyone who really watched the race, because he overcame a lot just to finish fourth. I’m proud of him, and look forward to trying Always Dreaming again.”
• Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming (Bodemeister) has impressed trainer Todd Pletcher with how well he exited Saturday’s race.
“So far I’ve been amazed at how well he came out of the race,” said Pletcher. “His energy level is great. He walked the shedrow with a purpose this morning, ate all his dinner last night. Really, really pleased with the way he’s come out of it so far.”
Always Dreaming is expected to leave Churchill Downs Tuesday morning and arrive in Baltimore around 9:30 a.m.
Pletcher confirmed GII Rebel S. winner Malagacy (Shackleford) will not be running in the Preakness.
• Trainer Steve Asmussen, who had already listed Derby runner-up Lookin at Lee (Lookin at Lucky) as a likely Preakness contender, added 11th-place finisher Hence (Street Boss) to the mix for May 20 race Monday.
“He came out of the race really well,” Asmussen said of Hence, who was never a factor after a troubled start in the Derby. “He didn’t run hard enough to be tired, I know that. It’s not necessarily ideal, but if he didn’t run hard, [more time] wouldn’t be as required. He was pretty overwhelmed, I think, just by the kickback and stuff. He never leveled off, definitely came out of it feeling good. So I don’t think he ran hard. Off a hard race, spacing is required. But off an easy one, it’s more like a work.”
• GIII Illinois Derby winner Multiplier (The Factor) worked four furlongs at Keeneland Monday in :50.60 (37/43) with trainer Brendan Walsh in the irons. “He’s not a great work horse, but he worked good and we’re happy with him,” Walsh said. “We are pointing [to the Preakness] right now, I think. If everything is well in the next week or so, there’s a strong possibility we will run.”
• GIII Stonestreet Lexington S. winner Senior Investment (Discreetly Mine) worked five furlongs at Keeneland Monday in a bullet 1:00.40 (1/22) and galloped out six furlongs in 1:13 4/5.
“He worked super,” trainer Kenny McPeek said. “He’s pretty consistent. We didn’t do anything special, but he’s on his game right now. We’re going to work him again next Sunday and then work on travel plans.”
• NBC Sports’ coverage of Saturday’s GI Kentucky Derby posted a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) average of 16.5 million viewers across NBC and NBC Sports Digital platforms–marking the largest Kentucky Derby audience since 1989 (18.5 million viewers for Sunday Silence’s win on ABC). TV-only Kentucky Derby viewership peaked at 19.1 million viewers from 6:45-7:00 p.m. ET–up 7% from the peaks of the past two Kentucky Derby races.