ALWAYS DREAMING RIGHT ON TIME IN DERBY
What did Always Dreaming’s fantastic win in the Kentucky Derby tell us on May 6? Perhaps it was the omens of horse racing and the forces that surround life came together on a glorious spring day in Louisville, Kentucky.
For the casual sports fan, the name of a Thoroughbred athlete is important. Many of us look for one we can identify with. Whether it is something like Demons Begone to talk about Uncle Earl’s drinking problem or Daddy’s Lil Darling in making reference to your chocolate chip cookie of a daughter. That is where Always Dreaming comes in as one of the best named winners in Kentucky Derby history. Most of us are dreaming of something special, and for a lot of folks this son of Bodemeister delivered with a magnificent mile and a quarter beneath the twin spires.
The first person to feel a warm fuzzy from this superb performance was trainer Todd Pletcher. As one of the most successful conditioners in the world, most forget about all his wins when the first Saturday in May rolls around. A brilliant handler of horses, the Texas native has had his share of misfortune in the Kentucky Derby as 45 starters in the previous 16 years had yielded just 1 win (Super Saver 2010). Bombarded with naysayers at times, his fast-running phenom silenced the critics as his first-ever Derby favorite delivered in a big way.
“I don’t think I am any better of a trainer after the race than I was before the race,” says the seven-time Eclipse award winner. “Our Derby record has been talked about a lot. It was important to win a second one and to be fortunate enough to do it is especially rewarding because we have so much respect for the race and how difficult it is to win. I felt like our team needed it and (jockey) Johnny (Velazquez) and I needed it. We have had a great relationship and won a lot of races together, just not this one.”
Velazquez and Pletcher have indeed enjoyed a lot of trips to the winner’s circle over their two decades together. Working together to get Always Dreaming right for the Kentucky Derby had it’s anxious moments along the way, but the team stayed the course. The veteran rider was on the money in handling this great-grandson of 1990 Derby winner Unbridled around the Louisville oval as he trusted the stuff of his long-time partner.
“I knew he was a little anxious earlier in the week, but when Todd and I talked about him he told me he was ready to run that is what I wanted to hear,” says Velazquez. “This is really a big one and for Todd to trust in me and give me this opportunity means a lot. It is not very often you stick together in this business.”
The Dream trip and the Dream ride were special for the handlers, but it also meant a lot to the owners as well. Speaking for MeB Racing, Brooklyn Boyz Stables, Teresa Viola Racing, St. Elias Stable, Sienna Farms, and West Point Thoroughbreds, Brooklyn born Anthony Bonomo and Vincent Viola were pinching themselves to say the least.
“We are just two kids from Brooklyn that represent the kids that went to the track with their father and fell in love with the sport,” says Viola. “We were kids that were always dreamed and this is a dream come true. All I can say is go Dreaming!”
For fans and casual onlookers, the performance of Always Dreaming tells us a lot about life. Faced with challenges like we all are, the Pletcher trainee overcame some early week anxiety, a 20 horse field, and a muddy track to deliver an astonishing 2 ¾ length triumph in 2:03.59. No matter what our situation is, we should remember staying the course with vision is important.
It is now on to the Preakness with thoughts of a Triple Crown dancing through the minds of many. Will we see the thirteenth conqueror of the Crown?… Always Dreaming.