The strange and twisting story of the Triple Crown continues to create more questions than answers. After a rousing win in the 2017 Kentucky Derby, Always Dreaming came up well short in a Preakness eventually won by outside shot Cloud Computing. While neither have been definitively ruled out for the final leg of the circuit, neither has committed in full. That uncertainty has left many of us scratching our heads as we try to figure out who will fill the 2017 Belmont field.
After a wild prep season for the Triple Crown, where contenders fell and upsets were plentiful, Always Dreaming seemed to offer some much needed stability to the group. But a seriously lame performance for the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby winner has opened the doors of doubt.
Trainer Todd Pletcher tried to calm these worries as he assesses Always Dreaming readiness to join the 2017 Belmont field. “He’s healthy and happy,” Pletcher stated plainly. “We’ll head back to Belmont and regroup. When I spoke to the ownership after the race yesterday, we all decided we wouldn’t make a decision until we got him home and evaluated him. Talking to jockey John Velazquez a little more, he was concerned down the backside that [Always Dreaming] wasn’t taking him there the same way he was taking him there in the Kentucky Derby and Florida Derby. Other than that, I don’t have a good explanation,” Pletcher continued. “He came back healthy and looks good. The surface, I hate to use that as an excuse, because he’s run well over all kinds of different surfaces, this one was a little bit different, because it was in that drying-out phase. But it wasn’t his day, I suppose.”
It’s a fair explanation. This is horse racing after all. But winning trainer Chad Brown seemed to echo the sentiment of a wait-and-see strategy as he prepares to make a decision regarding Cloud Computing joining the 2017 Belmont Field. “We haven’t ruled it out,” Brown admitted. “We’re just going to evaluate the horse this week and probably by next weekend we may have a decision.
The news on Classic Empire, the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and a strong contender in both legs of the Triple Crown so far, is pretty murky too. “Right now I’d say there’s a very good shot he’s going to run in the Belmont,” Casse said. “But we won’t make that decision yet. We’ll see how he acts and does everything.”
So far, trainers across the top of the board seem to be pretty aloof as to what’s going to happen in the Belmont Stakes. That could seriously hinder betting for the big race. There was a 36 percent drop in action from the year American Pharoah won in 2015 to when Creator took the title in 2016. The behaviour of trainers and connections bypassing the 2017 Belmont field due to its longer distance and short recovery window could be a sign that the Triple Crown needs some adjustment.