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TrackNotes: Clouds Over The Preakness

After a couple of emergency sessions with the urgent care psychiatrist these past few days, I've gained many insights into my addled state after Cloud Computing's gutty win by a head in the Preakness Stakes last Saturday.

I found out I may simply harbor some latent maniacal tendencies toward the horse's name, although I've been assured I have no apparent propensity to act out violently.

It took me some time to find out how this horse, the son of Maclean's Music - who supposedly showed a lot of speed in his one and only race - with A.P. Indy on his dam's side, really got his name.

First I found out he's owned by Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence, a partnership of hedge funders. It EFFING FIGURES, I seethed. Then I learned that that's how they like to name their horses, pick a term from an industry they have their fingers in. They're also currently running Practical Joke, but they have a filly named Top Decile. You look it up. If you can stomach it, you can read more about their horses' names. Hey boys, it's not funny, clever or cute. Seriously!

After he crossed the finish line, all I could think was jeez, they thought it was a cutting edge name back more than two years ago when they submitted it to the Jockey Club. But even then, it wasn't, and it's getting cheesier by the minute. Chumps.

Much like The Dude's take on a certain band (I concur), I hate cloud computing. I heard a computer security expert once say "Get off the damned cloud! It's not safe." What, you compute on the cloud? Why? Like smoking, don't you understand that's what they want you to do? Cloud computing's convenience is the nicotine of the digital age.

I know I digress, but these inner struggles may have prevented me, I learned, from committing even $2 on a horse that paid $28.80, $8.60 and $6.00.

Piling on to my fragile state of mind, Cloud Computing and Javier Castellano actually ran a very good race, and I should have seen that they were capable of winning. There have been big winners - Mine That Bird is an excellent example - that I wouldn't bet before the race, in the winner's circle, the next day, the next race, ever. But I should have seen this one.

CC tagged along just behind the lead tandem of Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and Classic Empire, who appropriated the lead early in the backstretch. Classic Empire never had a chance to open up in the Derby, which probably saved him some energy.

But like the fresh horse that he was, trainer Chad Brown's strategy in skipping the Derby paying off, 'Computing ran down 'Empire to get the wire by just a head. Always Dreaming, positioned into the stretch with every chance for the win, tired badly and faded to eighth. Senior Investment, another new shooter, took Show at 31-1.

The post-race doldrums were fueled by the strong feeling that this group of 3-year-olds is nothing special. From the Derby, Lookin At Lee, Gunnevera and Hence finished middling or worse. Multiplier did not advance. Conquest Mo Money showed not much.

Always Dreaming was officially declared out of the June 10 Belmont Stakes. In trainer Todd Pletcher's world, wheeling a horse back means at least four weeks between races, but there's wheeling and there's wheeling. Citation ran the Derby Trial prep a week before his Kentucky Derby and won the Jersey Stakes between his Preakness and Belmont.

'Dreaming, Pletcher's druthers aside, ran the Preakness only because of the Derby winner's intrinsic, unwritten obligation to try for the Triple Crown. Classic Empire's connections seem to be pointing him to the Belmont.

The basis of my recovery is that I've never clung to delusional fantasies that the Belmont must be run with a Triple Crown on the line, nor is it worthless if it is not. The lobe of logic dominates with assurances that it can be a good race, all by itself, reinforced by recent memories of Union Rags, Rags to Riches, Afleet Alex and Birdstone. And the doc says it's perfectly OK to trigger the endorphins going as far back as 1973.

But we will talk about Belmont Stakes Day when the time is right.

It's a process, you know.

Derby Fever
Like a ton of bricks, we saw the supreme example of how Derby Fever clouds the thinking of so many horsemen and owners.

Whitmore, the impressive winner of the Maryland sprint Saturday at six furlongs, is clearly a sprint specialist at six or 6.5 furlongs. He won his first race at six furlongs by more than seven lengths at Churchill Downs. He then finished in area code - 15 lengths back - in the Delta Jackpot next out at 8.5 furlongs, and won his next at Oaklawn at, guess what, six furlongs.

In 2016, he was put on the Triple Crown trail. He ran very gamely in the Oaklawn preps and the Arkansas Derby, finishing two or three lengths back in each one, at 8.5 or 9 furlongs. But do you think they would see he was short in those races? He finished 19th, more than 37 lengths back in the Kentucky Derby last year. Humiliation like that has been known to ruin a horse.

He took a freshening after the Derby and won a $62K optional claimer at Aqueduct in December. At 6.5 furlongs. Since then, he won another claimer, the $125K Hot Springs and the Grade III Count Fleet Special, both at Oaklawn, and then the Maryland Sprint. All at 6 furlongs!

Thankfully, Whitmore is carving it up in the sprints, and he's going to be a lot of fun to watch this year as he heads for the Breeders' Cup.

But the next time you hear a trainer or owner say "We're going to let the horse tell us what he wants," don't necessarily believe they will be listening.

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Tom Chambers is our correspondent on the rail. He welcomes your comments.

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