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By Shawn Rychling

Going into last week’s Preakness Stakes it looked to be a match race between Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and fourth-place Derby finisher Classic Empire. And it was just that for about 7 furlongs.

The favored pair raced neck-and-neck until they were coming off the far turn when Classic Empire began to pull away. Always Dreaming began dropping back at the quarter pole and had completely chucked it by the 3/16th.

Classic Empire looked like a winner at the 1/8th pole, but by that time Cloud Computing was coming up along the outside and bearing down on the leader.  Cloud Computing was making just the fourth start of his career for trainer Chad Brown. He broke his maiden in his debut on Feb. 11 and then ran second in the Gotham and third in the Wood Memorial after getting bet down to 2-1.  This writer actually liked him a little in both races, but overlooked him in the Preakness.

In the Preakness, Classic Empire appeared to be the easy winner at the 1/8th pole.  So much so that I had taken my eye off him and was looking for the longshot I played – Multiplier – but he just had too much ground to make up.

Meanwhile, Cloud Computing had been rating on the rail just a couple lengths behind the leaders for the first 6 furlongs. A dream trip as many alluded to after the race. Jockey Javier Castellano then guided Cloud Computing to the outside around a fading Always Dreaming and had him rallying, but he was running greenly, first coming in, and then bearing out.  Finally at about the 1/16th he straightened it out and charged past a fading Classic Empire to get the upset win.

So that kills any Triple Crown for this year and make it a 2-year drought since American Pharoah pulled it off in 2015. And that comes as no surprise since this crop of 3-year-olds looks like an evenly matched bunch of above-average horses.  There could be a late bloomer like last year when Arrogate came out of nowhere, blew away the Travers field, and hasn’t looked back.

Closer on the horizon is the Belmont Stakes in two weeks and Chad Brown may have a dilemma. The local prep for the Belmont, the Peter Pan, was run two weeks ago and Brown’s other late bloomer, Timeline, took the race by 3 ½ lengths after dueling much of the way with Meantime.  Both of those colts may have Belmont aspirations after the Peter Pan duel which came over a sloppy race track.  Timeline by the way is now 3 for 3 and his first race wasn’t until March 4. His jockey: Javier Castellano.  So both trainer and rider will have decisions to make. But why not go forward with so few horses looking ready to run a mile-and-half on June 10. And we will have more on the race as it gets closer.

Don’t forget, you can get all the Hot List analysis for this weekend’s Belmont Park action on the Interbets site right here.  It’s a three-day weekend at the track with a special Monday card. And don’t forget that Saratoga will open in just 56 days!