Cloud Computing runs down Classic Empire to win Preakness

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Cloud Computing (2), ridden by Javier Castellano, wins the 142nd Preakness Stakes at Pimlico as Classic Empire, with Julien Leparoux aboard, takes second. | Mike Stewart/AP

BALTIMORE — Seth Klarman grew up three blocks from Pimlico Race Course, going to the betting windows as a teenager to learn the horse-racing game.

The hedge-fund manager started buying horses 25 years ago, an activity that eventually led him back to his old track as the co-owner of a fresh horse named Cloud Computing in the 142nd Preakness Stakes.

This trip had a different ending. He walked up the stairs to Pimlico’s signature cupola before hoisting the Woodlawn Vase, his colt having bolted down the stretch to beat Classic Empire by a head in the second leg of the Triple Crown. Cloud Computing covered the 1 miles in 1 minute, 55.98 seconds and paid $28.80. He won at 13-1 odds and became only the third non-Kentucky Derby runner to win the Preakness since 2000.

Cloud Computing’s victory meant there won’t be a second consecutive Triple Crown winner. Derby winner and 5-4 favorite Always Dreaming charged out to an early lead and dueled with 3-1 second choice Classic Empire through the final turn. But he abruptly slowed, finishing eighth, and Cloud Computing made his move down the stretch.

‘‘We were in the position we expected to be, and I think the turnaround was a little too quick,’’ Always Dreaming trainer Todd Pletcher said. ‘‘He ran so hard in the Derby, and today just wasn’t his day.

‘‘He didn’t seem to relish the track, but I don’t really think that was it. It was just that he put so much into the Derby that it wasn’t meant to be.’’

Though their horse was beaten, members of Classic Empire’s team were partially vindicated after spending the week saying they liked their chances in a clean race. The colt, who was named the best 2-year-old last year, had a difficult trip in the Derby — starting with a collision out of the gate — but still finished fourth. The path was clearer at Pimlico, and Classic Empire delivered.

‘‘I thought he ran outstanding,’’ trainer Mark Casse said. ‘‘I said to [jockey] Julien [Leparoux], ‘Second doesn’t mean anything.’ I said, ‘Let’s go and try to win this thing.’ It ended up getting us in the end.’’

Though Cloud Computing was eligible to run in the Derby, trainer Chad Brown opted to skip that race and give the horse a six-week rest. It showed.

‘‘I’m not going to dispute the fact that I brought a fresh horse as part of our strategy,’’ Brown said. ‘‘Our horse is very talented, too. Classic Empire and Always Dreaming are two outstanding horses, and our strategy was, ‘If we are going to ever beat them, let’s take them on two weeks of rest when we have six,’ and it worked.’’

Klarman, the president of Boston-based Baupost Group, called the decision ‘‘brilliant’’ and said he didn’t regret skipping the Derby.

It helped that jockey Javier Castellano handled Cloud Computing so well. Castellano rode Gunnevera in the Derby and was asked to do the same in the Preakness, but he opted to ride for Brown, whom he works with regularly in New York. Castellano made his move at the right time, then steadied Cloud Computing as the horses stretched for the finish line.

It was Castellano’s first time on Cloud Computing, who didn’t run last year because of injury. This was his fourth race, and he twice had broken poorly.

But Castellano got him into the race cleanly, and he and Brown had devised a plan to go to the rail and save ground while the favorites broke at a frenzied pace.

‘‘Once he got a spot early, we figured the race can be won or lost in that first turn,’’ Brown said. ‘‘And I feel he won the race right in that first turn.’’

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