Nick Bush is a man in demand.
In addition to media obligations that have come for Todd Pletcher's veteran exercise rider as a result of the exceptionally good day his boss enjoyed May 6, the perpetually upbeat reinsman has been kind enough to share his talents with some old friends this week, getting on horses for former Pletcher assistant George Weaver during mornings at Pimlico Race Course.
It is the first horse Bush gets on before sunrise, however, that continues to test his finesse and keeps the spotlight on himself and his team. According to the signals Bush is getting from that horse, Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) winner Always Dreaming, the attention already coming his way could gain more steam.
With Bush in the irons and deftly handling the now-famed draw reins, Always Dreaming turned in another strong 1 1/2-mile gallop over the Pimlico main track May 17 as he readies for his start in the Preakness Stakes (G1) Saturday. After emerging from the Pimlico stakes barn at 5:30 a.m., the dark bay son of Bodemeister was composed down the walking path to the oval and proceeded to impress his connections with his energetic training, steadily picking up steam down the backstretch while still looking well within himself.
"I thought he looked great. He's feeling super—strong but controlled, which is what we wanted to see," said Pletcher, who is seeking his first victory in the middle leg of the Triple Crown. "He was well behaved around the barn, on his way to the track, and on his way back to the track. I thought he was focused and under control throughout."
In the absence of anything new to report regarding the condition of his classic-winning charge, Pletcher injected some of his dry humor into his daily press gathering by stating he was on "a streak of six straight days of eating crab cakes."
No new news is good news from the perspective of the Always Dreaming camp. Pletcher maintains he has yet to see any signs that the colt's Derby triumph has dulled his edge, and is encouraged that his high-energy protégé appears to have found the balance of being on the muscle without going over the top each morning.
"I mean, he's been training great for a long time now and he continues to show us the same things he was showing us leading up to the Derby," Pletcher said. "I like the way he is behaving around the barn. He's quiet in the stall and is very composed. And when he gets on the track, he's strong, but in a good way. We just don't want to see him get too excited and step on himself or something like that."
After having multiple graded stakes winner Gunnevera go through a very easy gallop a day before, trainer Antonio Sano let the son of Dialed In step things up slightly Wednesday. The seventh-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby put in an open gallop from the seven-furlong pole to the half-mile marker, and was clocked unofficially in :43 3/5 by Alessandro Sano, son and assistant to Antonio Sano.
"Today the open gallop was very good," Antonio Sano said. "In the Derby, the track was very heavy on the outside, but I'm very happy with how he is getting over this track."
Reigning juvenile champion Classic Empire was on the bridle during his gallop Wednesday, but also showed good composure on a morning that featured an uptick in on-track activity. The fact that the son of Pioneerof the Nile emerged as well as he has from his fourth-place effort in the Kentucky Derby, after getting slammed at the start, is something trainer Mark Casse counts as an example of the colt's superior recovery time.
"One thing I would say in Classic Empire's favor too is he ran by a lot of good horses. He ran by Irish War Cry, he ran by McCraken—all these horses that were considered the top contenders," Casse said. "And I don't think anyone would disagree that he took the biggest blow of any horse and he still ran by a lot of good horses."
Conquest Mo Money, runner-up to Classic Empire in the Arkansas Derby (G1), put in a professional gallop for the second day since arriving in Baltimore, while Cloud Computing, Kentucky Derby runner-up Lookin At Lee, and his stablemate Hence all took their first spins over the track since arriving Tuesday afternoon.
Stonestreet Lexington Stakes (G3) winner Senior Investment and the Doug O'Neill-trained Term of Art also got their first look at the Baltimore track, while Illinois Derby (G3) winner Multiplier walked in his first day on the scene for trainer Brendan Walsh. Multiplier is slated to resume galloping May 18.