BALTIMORE (AP) — Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming made himself right at home Tuesday in Stall 40 at Pimlico Race Course, munching on hay while his handlers scurried around him.
The bay colt was in excellent spirits after traveling from Churchill Downs to Pimlico, where he will spend the next 11 days before running in the Preakness.
Always Dreaming was pampered by assistant trainer Ginny DePasquale, who will be joined by her boss, trainer Todd Pletcher, on Wednesday.
“I just spoke to Todd and told him: ‘The horse looks very bright-eyed. He looks very happy,’” DePasquale said. “It’s pretty special to see him looking that well. I’m happy and I know Todd is.”
Stall 40 is traditionally reserved for the Kentucky Derby winner and has housed many of the greatest champions in horse racing history. Secretariat and Seattle Slew are among several Triple Crown winners who resided there, but Always Dreaming is the first Derby winner to cozy into Stall 40 since California Chrome in 2014.
“It’s actually very exciting because we think he’s a really, really special horse,” DePasquale said.
The 1 3/16-mile Preakness will be run May 20. The notion behind bringing Always Dreaming to Pimlico well in advance of the race was twofold: to avoid excessive travel and to let the horse get familiar with his surroundings.
Instead of transporting the New York-based Always Dreaming from Kentucky to Belmont and back to Baltimore, Pletcher figured it was best just to eliminate the trip to New York.
“All that traveling, it doesn’t really take anything out of him, but you never really know,” DePasquale said. “It’s simpler to bring him here, let him settle in and save all that shipping back and forth.”
The plan is for Always Dreaming to jog around the track Wednesday and “probably gallop” on Thursday, according to DePasquale.
Sometime next week, things will begin to get hectic at Pimlico. Until then, Always Dreaming will have the place pretty much to himself.
“Yeah, I think that’s the important part — just let him look around without all the excitement,” DePasquale said. “That way, he can take everything in. And then slowly but surely, all the excitement starts.”