Kentucky Derby Winner Living Proof ‘Dreams’ Really Do Come True

MeB Racing Stables, Brooklyn Boys Stables, Teresa Viola, St. Elias Stable’s and Siena Thoroughbreds’ Always Dreaming turned Kentucky Derby dreams into amazing realities on Saturday with his 2 ¾-length score in the $2 million running of the historic race held the first Saturday in May for 143 consecutive years under the Twin Spires at Churchill Downs.

The dark bay or brown son of Bodemister provided both trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez with their second career victories each in the Run for the Roses, but it was the first win together for the pair, who have maintained one of the most successful partnerships in the game since Pletcher first became a trainer more than 20 years ago.

Always Dreaming (photo by Jordan Sigmon).

Always Dreaming (photo by Jordan Sigmon).

“This is so special to win this race with Johnny,” an emotional Pletcher said. “We’ve been together for all these years and this is sweet.

“My Derby record has been talked about a lot. When you look at it now, we’ve been here 17 years and we’ve been fortunate to have two wins, two seconds, and three thirds. I feel like I really needed that second one.”

In the field of 20 of the “last men standing” sophomores, Always Dreaming was the public’s 9-2 favorite and was good for $11.40, $7.20 and $5.80. Lookin at Lee, a 33-1 outsider, closed strongly down the lane to earn runner-up honors and paid $26.60 and $15.20, completing a $336.20 exacta, while 40-1 chance Battle of Midway crossed the wire another five lengths back in third, returning $20.80. The $2 trifecta was good for $16,594.40.

Juvenile champion Classic Empire was fourth and was followed under the wire by Practical Joke, Tapwrit, Gunnevera, McCraken, Gormley, Irish War Cry, Hence, Untrapped, Girvin, Patch, J Boys Echo, Sonneteer, Fast and Accurate, Irap and State of Honor. UAE Derby (GI) winner Thunder Snow broke awkwardly and, shortly thereafter, began to buck, his rider giving up all chance for a win and preferring to pull his mount up safely at the top of the stretch.

Always-Dreaming_Jordan-Sigmon3

Always Dreaming pulled away down the stretch en route to a 2 3/4-length win in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby (photo by Jordan Sigmon).

The break was typical of the Derby and rough for many of the runners, some bouncing off each other and having to check, but Always Dreaming broke smartly from his post position of five and was immediately sent toward the front by his Hall of Fame pilot, settling in comfortably along the rail behind the early leader State of Honor, who logged the opening half-mile in splits of :22.70 and :46.53. After stalking the frontrunner for more than a half-mile, Velazquez had enough of waiting and sent his mount for the front as State of Honor began to retreat rapidly.

The race was over from there, as Always Dreaming continued along on the front end, not under a serious ride but with winning intent on his jockey’s mind, and extended his lead past three quarters in 1:11.12 and a mile in 1:37.27. Down the lane he opened up and safely held the late chargers safe, stopping the clock in 2:03.59 on a sealed Churchill Downs main track labeled “wet-fast”.

“This is the best horse Todd [Pletcher] and I have ever come to the Kentucky Derby with,” Velazquez said. “Nothing against all the others, but this was the best horse. I got a good position with him early and then he relaxed. When we hit the quarter pole, I asked him and he responded. He did it himself from there.”

Always Dreaming

Always Dreaming draped in roses following the running of the 143rd Kentucky Derby (photo by Jordan Sigmon).

The Kentucky Derby proved to be more than a victory in the Greatest Two Minutes in Sports for Always Dreaming’s connections. Just making the race proved to be a lesson in patience for everyone involved, from having to ship to win an allowance race earlier this year to fixing a somewhat headstrong colt’s attitude during Derby week at Churchill Downs with a rider switch and tack change. It all came together at the right time Always Dreaming, however, giving his owners — many of whom have been friends since childhood — the most coveted trophy in the sport of horse racing.

“Growing up as kids we’ve won a lot of Kentucky Derbies, but not in reality,” part-owner Anthony Bonomo, said. “We just knew when we got together something special was going to happen. It’s been a family affair.”

His partner, Vincent Viola agreed.

“We represent everybody who went to the racetrack with their dads and were astonished by these athletes and fell in love with them,” Viola explained. “We are truly kids, in our hearts, from the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. We always dreamed and this is one of the dreams that came true.”

Always Dreaming, who was bred in Kentucky by Santa Rosa Partners, is a son of the grade 3-winning In Excess mare Above Perfection and is a half-brother to grade 1 winner Hot Dixie Chick. He was purchased for $350,000 as a Keeneland September yearling in 2015 by bloodstock agent Steve Young, acting on behalf of part-owner Anthony Bonomo Jr. Since then, the colt has amassed career earnings of $2,284,700 and his career line stands at 6-4-1-1. He also won the Florida Derby (GI) last month at Gulfstream Park.

Pletcher indicated that providing all is well with Always Dreaming within the next day or so, the intent is to make the second jewel of the Triple Crown — the Preakness Stakes — at Pimlico on May 20.

Margaret Ransom
California native and lifelong horsewoman Margaret Ransom is a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program. She got her start in racing working in the publicity departments at Calder Race Course and Hialeah Park, as well as in the racing office at Gulfstream Park in South Florida. She then spent six years in Lexington, KY, at BRISnet.com, where she helped create and develop the company’s popular newsletters: Handicapper’s Edge and Bloodstock Journal.

After returning to California, she served six years as the Southern California news correspondent for BloodHorse, assisted in the publicity department at Santa Anita Park and was a contributor to many other racing publications, including HorsePlayer Magazine and Trainer Magazine. She then spent seven years at HRTV and HRTV.com in various roles as researcher, programming assistant, producer and social media and marketing manager.

She has also walked hots and groomed runners, worked the elite sales in Kentucky for top-class consignors and volunteers for several racehorse retirement organizations, including CARMA.

In 2016, Margaret was the recipient of the prestigious Stanley Bergstein Writing Award, sponsored by Team Valor, and was an Eclipse Award honorable mention for her story, “The Shocking Untold Story of Maria Borell,” which appeared on USRacing.com. The article and subsequent stories helped save 43 abandoned and neglected Thoroughbreds in Kentucky and also helped create a new animal welfare law known as the “Borell Law.”

Margaret’s very first Breeders’ Cup was at Hollywood Park in 1984 and she has attended more than half of the Breeders’ Cups since. She counts Holy Bull and Arrogate as her favorite horses of all time. She lives in Pasadena with her longtime beau, Tony, two Australian Shepherds and one Golden Retriever.

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