The Bodemeister colt wasn't as unruly as he was leading up to his Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) victory at Churchill Downs, but for his exercise rider Nick Bush, the eager, playful bucks at the start of his 1 1/2-mile gallop Monday morning were a welcome sign.
After his minor antics at the start of the gallop, however, Always Dreaming put his head down and powered through his training.
"He started off with a few bucks and stuff, and I was like, 'Oh, oh, oh,' but he put his head down and got relaxed, so that was good," Bush said of the colt's Preakness Stakes (G1) preparations. "He wants to be happy. That's a good thing, though."
Just after leaving the Pimlico stakes barn at 6 a.m. the Todd Pletcher-trained colt gave an indication he was ready to roll. As he worked his way toward the walking path to the Pimlico main track, he seemed a bit uneasy and stutter stepped with the pony until Bush let out, "All right. Let's get going."
"A couple days after running in the Derby, he was probably a little drained," Bush said. "Now he's back to himself. I'm thinking he's feeling good. I sure do."
Pletcher admitted after the training session that it was the first nervous moment he had with the colt since their arrival in Baltimore.
"He actually scared me a little bit, because he was feeling so good when he went out," Pletcher said. "The first couple of strides he tried to buck Nick off and kinda stumbled when he did it. But he got right back on his feet and right after that it was a smooth, energetic, good gallop. Obviously you don't want any stumbles at this stage of the game, so it gave me a little fright, but he looks good back here."
Even after his on-track training session, Always Dreaming jogged at times through the shedrow, springy and on his toes.
"I like him to see him like this," Bush said. "He came out of the barn bouncing in the shedrow. That's a good sign. Even when we brought him out of the barn, we had to keep him moving because he's about to explode."
It's a fine line in handling the colt, to harness that ample energy in a constructive way.
"We've got to maintain and keep him from hurting himself," Bush said. "It can work both ways. Day to day we'll try to keep him as cool and calm as we can."
With the departure of Royal Mo after his training injury May 14, the Preakness horses on the grounds increased to three again, as Classic Empire arrived at Pimlico Monday, along with assistant trainer Norman Casse and the rest of Mark Casse's string. The 2-year-old champion male of 2016 and Arkansas Derby (G1) winner walked the shedrow Monday morning and Norman Casse said the Pioneerof the Nile colt will head to the track for the first time May 16.
Later in the morning Gunnevera took his first spin around the Pimlico main track.
The late-running Dialed In colt slowly jogged twice counterclockwise around the main track under exercise rider Vincent O'Farrell with a pony escort.
The bit of exercise was overseen by assistant trainer Larry Kelly. Trainer Antonio Sano is scheduled to arrive in Baltimore Monday afternoon.
"He's as good, if not better (than he was for) the Derby," Kelly said of the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth (G2) winner who came in seventh in the Kentucky Derby. "He came out of it very good. He was a little banged up like quite a few of them were, but it was all superficial. Mentally, he's done well. Physically, he's blossomed."
Gunnevera's connections are hopeful for a rapid pace scenario to set up the inquisitive chestnut's closing drive. Before and after his jog Monday morning, Gunnevera seemingly stopped at every gap to inspect onlookers.
"We need a pace. There's no doubt about it," Kelly said. "We need some action on the front end. ... I'd just like to have a good, honest run at him."
Always Dreaming first defeated Gunnevera in the Xpressbet Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park, where the closing challenger finished third by 6 1/2 lengths after trailing in 10th early.
"He's two up on us, so after a while you hope you can turn the tables on him," Kelly said. "It really hurt, in more ways than one, to lose Royal Mo yesterday. He was obviously a speed horse and you never want to see any horse get hurt. ... That was a little blow to the pace, but if anybody wants to beat Always Dreaming, they're going to have to go get him."