Always Dreaming Betting Favorite Over Classic Empire for Preakness Stakes

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A smaller field and the ever-present desire to see a Triple Crown winner has driven down the price on Always Dreaming, which creates value elsewhere on the odds to win the Preakness Stakes at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Always Dreaming is listed as the -125 favorite to win the Preakness, the middle and penultimate jewel in horse racing’s Triple Crown. The Kentucky Derby-winning colt is on a four-race win streak and will get to start from the No. 4 post at Pimlico Race Course, where 13 winners have started from in the history of the race.

The field for Saturday consists of 10 horses, only half the number that ran in the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago. The weather will be warmer and the track will likely be firmer than it was at a muddy Churchill Downs. Neither Always Dreaming’s mount, John Velazquez, or his trainer, Todd Pletcher, has ever won a Preakness.

The conditions and the shorter turnaround time might work in the favor of second favorite Classic Empire (+300), who finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby. Classic Empire will also break from the middle of the pack in the No. 5 position.

Lookin At Lee (+1000) is the Kentucky Derby runner-up and will start from the No. 9 hole. The slightly shorter distance (one and three-16th miles vis-a-vis the Derby’s mile and one-quarter) might not allow Lookin At Lee enough time to make a push for top spot.

Cloud Computing (+1400) and Conquest Mo Money (+1800) could each have a drop in price for the Preakness Stakes closer to post time on Saturday. Cloud Computing, who will be ridden by jockey Javier Castellano, has been lightly raced. He also has the No. 2 position, which allows for drafting off another horse until the home stretch.

Conquest Mo Money, ridden by Jorge Carreno, is a speedster suited for the shorter duration of the Preakness. He has had a five-week break since his last race at the Arkansas Derby, where he was a close second behind none other than Classic Empire.

The field also includes Gunnevera (+1600), Hence (+2000), Term of Art (+3300), Senior Investment (+3300) and Multiplier (+4000). Gunnevera and Hence were seventh and 11th respectively in the Kentucky Derby, which doesn’t strike one as a harbinger of a win on Saturday.

 

Wood Memorial boosts purse to attract top horses

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NEW YORK — The Wood Memorial purse could increase to $1 million as part of a bonus created to entice the top 3-year-olds to run in the Kentucky Derby prep on April 7.

New York Racing Association officials said Saturday that the presence of any horse in the field with a previous Grade 1 or Group 1 victory would increase the purse from $750,000 to $1 million if the qualifying horse starts. In that case, the winner would receive $590,000, the runner-up would earn $190,000 and third would be worth $90,000.

The Wood is run at 1 1/8 miles at Aqueduct. The race is part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby prep series that awards 100 points to the winner, 40 to second, 20 to third and 10 to fourth. The top 20 horses on the leaderboard earn starting spots in the Derby on May 5.

Jack Van Berg dies at 81

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Jack Van Berg, a Hall of Fame trainer who oversaw Alysheba to victories in the 1987 Kentucky Derby and Preakness, died Wednesday. He was 81.

He died in a Little Rock, Arkansas, hospital, according to a spokeswoman for Oaklawn Park, where Van Berg had relocated his training base after leaving Southern California in 2013. No cause was given.

Van Berg ranks fourth all-time among trainers in North America, with 6,523 victories from 41,164 starts, according to Equibase. He had career purse earnings of $85,925,482.

In the Derby, Alysheba and jockey Chris McCarron were nearly knocked down at the top of the stretch by Bet Twice. Alysheba recovered and won despite having just one career victory before the Run for the Roses. Alysheba won the Preakness to set up a try for the Triple Crown but finished fourth in the Belmont.

As a 4-year-old, Alysheba won the 1988 Breeders’ Cup Classic and went on to earn the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year.

Van Berg saddled Gate Dancer to victory in the 1984 Preakness. That same year, he earned the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer.

Van Berg was elected to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1985. His father, trainer Marion Van Berg, already was there, having entered in 1970.

From 1959-77, Van Berg was the leading trainer at Ak-Sar-Ben racetrack in Omaha, Nebraska. In 1976, he won a record 496 races and was the nation’s leading trainer, with $2,976,196 in purse earnings.

In 1987, Van Berg became the first trainer to win 5,000 races when he saddle Art’s Chandelle to victory at Arlington Park outside Chicago.

He trained in Southern California for 41 years until moving to Oaklawn in Hot Springs, Arkansas, after Hollywood Park closed in December 2013. Van Berg blamed the cities of Inglewood and Los Angeles and the state of California for the track’s closure.

“I just think it’s a pathetic thing,” he said at the time. “It’s ridiculous to let something like this that so many people love and thrive on close. They did everything they could to kill racing. I’ve had enough. I don’t like California racing anymore. I don’t like the way they run it and what they do.”

Van Berg mentored Hall of Famer Bill Mott, who began as an assistant to him.

Born June 7, 1936, in Columbus, Nebraska, John Charles Van Berg began training for his father in the 1960s. The elder Van Berg trained nearly 1,500 winners but was more successful as an owner, winning 4,691 races and $13,936,965. He was the first inductee of the Nebraska Racing Hall of Fame, and his son followed him.