Despite a six-race win streak, five of them in stakes, the last three of them as an overwhelming favorite, Alwaysmining figures to sport relatively generous odds when he makes his graded-stakes debut in Saturday's 144th Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course.
For Greg and Caroline Bentley of Runnymede Racing, it's a case of been there, done that.
In 2014 the Bentleys, proprietors of Runnymede Farm in Unionville, Pa., upset the Arlington Million (G1) with 11-1 long shot Hardest Core - a horse they bought as a birthday present for their now 35-year-old son, Andrew, in whose name he ran.
"We bought Hardest Core because we wanted to race him in the Maryland Hunt Cup," Caroline Bentley said. "We thought maybe he was a little young to start [jumping] so maybe we should race him on the flat for a little while. It was just a really happy accident."
There were similarly no grand expectations for Alwaysmining when the Bentleys purchased him privately from Jim McIngvale following a maiden special weight victory last June at Laurel Park. They had wanted to add a dirt presence to their portfolio and were looking for a horse they could watch run locally over the winter.
"We're breeding horses and we want to run our homebreds, but we were looking for some racehorses to kind of fill in the gaps," Caroline Bentley said. "We run locally, so we were looking for Maryland-bred horses, Pennsylvania-bred horses. He looked nice, but we weren't looking for a world-beater, so it really surprised us."
Alwaysmining ran fifth in the first start for Runnymede, who then moved him to trainer Kelly Rubley. Seventh in his debut for Rubley in the Laurel Futurity on turf, Alwaysmining hasn't lost since. He capped his juvenile season beating fellow Preakness contender Win Win Win in the Heft Stakes, then swept the seven-furlong Miracle Wood, 1 1/16-mile Private Terms and 1 1/8-mile Federico Tesio to open 2019.
While the Private Terms marked his first try around two turns, the Tesio was a command performance for Alwaysmining. A front-running winner to that point, he showed a new dimension sitting behind horses before taking over and cruising to an 11 ½-length romp, earning an automatic berth in the Preakness.
"He's increasing each person's expectations as we go. No one takes for granted what his potential can be, but he seems to be finding himself and growing into and being proud of and confident in his capabilities," Greg Bentley said. "Of course, we don't know going into the Preakness what's next but we think he does represent Maryland racing well and we're proud and appreciative of that given the tradition of Maryland racing that we're glad to participate in and be part of."
Eight Maryland-breds have won the Preakness, starting with Cloverbrook in 1877. The last to do it was Deputed Testamony, also the Tesio winner who was sent off at 14-1 in the 1983 Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.
"Maryland has such a wonderful tradition and you feel it around here. There's so much pride and legacy," Caroline Bentley said. "It's a wonderful atmosphere."
Alwaysmining is one of five horses the Bentleys have with Rubley at Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md., a half-hour southof their Pennsylvania farm. CEO, President and Chairman of the Board of Bentley Systems, one of the world's largest privately held software companies since its inception in 1984, Greg Bentley got involved in racing as a hobby to balance work demands.
Runnymede also campaigned 2017 American St. Leger (G3) winner Postulation, but Alwaysmining represents its first attempt in a Triple Crown race.
"We happen to know that a horse can come from nowhere and accomplish a lot," Greg Bentley said. "Our son, Andrew, is a great fan of racing and he keeps track of everything. Maybe that's the source of our good luck, because we must say it's luck.
"We have had the experience of being a long shot and getting there," he added, "so we're not going to say that it can't happen."