Always Dreaming wins the 2017 Florida Derby

Always Dreaming wins the 2017 Florida Derby

Coglianese Photos/Lauren King

Always Dreaming Runs Away With Florida Derby

Gunnevera third as Bodemeister colt steps up to highest level.

Maryellen Bonomo has a knack for naming runners.

As the lithe dark bay colt she christened Always Dreaming took a massive jump up in class April 1 at Gulfstream Park, the co-owner and wife of Brooklyn Boyz Stable principal Anthony Bonomo—and all the various partners who have hitched their wagon to Always Dreaming's shooting star—saw those dreams come true in the form of a five-length score in the $1 million Xpressbet Florida Derby (G1).

From the first crop of WinStar stallion Bodemeister , whose marketing slogan reads "'B' is for Brilliant," Always Dreaming dazzled in his graded stakes debut, punched his ticket to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1), and gave trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez their fourth Florida Derby wins.

After tracking pacesetter Three Rules' opening fractions of :23.28, :47.08, and 1:10.75 in the 1 1/8-mile test, Always Dreaming took over from second and drew off to an easy score in a final time of 1:47.47 on a fast track. According to Gulfstream, he registered the fastest clocking since Alydar’s 1:47 winning time in 1978.

Always Dreaming broke his maiden Jan. 25 at Tampa Bay Downs, and followed up March 4 with a 1 1/8-mile optional-claiming allowance win at Gulfstream that served as his prep for the Florida Derby, where he picked up 100 points to rank third on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard.

"That’s why we were here today, to hopefully get the points to go on," Pletcher said. "With two mile-and-an-eighth wins, and the way he galloped out today, I’m confident he’ll get the trip.

“I think the whole program really helped today. We brought him along gradually, opted for the allowance race on Fountain of Youth day, and I think all that paid off. The horse has been training exceptionally well and we were confident he was going to run as well as he’s capable of, and thankfully he did. ... That was a very impressive performance." 

Multiple graded stakes winner Gunnevera, the even-money favorite in the field of 10, rallied from last but just managed third behind runner-up State of Honor.  

“The horse wasn’t comfortable in the beginning," trainer Antonio Sano said of Xpressbet Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) winner Gunnevera. "He finished strong but the horses in the front weren’t stopping. ... I’m happy. This is an important race to win, but it was a good race for the next one.”

State of Honor, who raced without blinkers after running second in the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G2), ranks fifth on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 62 points.

“He was rank and he calmed down a little bit," trainer Mark Casse said. "Maybe off of this race he will relax a little bit more. I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw him in Kentucky.”
The winner returned $7.40, $3.80, and $2.60 at odds of 5-2. State of Honor paid $4.80 and $2.80, while Gunnevera brought $2.10. Impressive Edge, Three Rules, Talk Logistics, Coleman Rocky, Unbridled Holiday, Charlie the Greek, and Quinientos completed the order of finish. Battalion Runner was scratched.

Always Dreaming, a $350,000 purchase by agent Steve Young from the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale when consigned by Dromoland Farm, races for Brooklyn Boyz Stables, MeB Racing Stable, Teresa and Vinnie Viola, West Point Thoroughbreds, and Siena Farm. He was bred by Santa Rosa Partners out of the In Excess mare Above Perfection, and is a half brother to grade 1 winner Hot Dixie Chick.

“I don’t know what to say, because it’s so exciting," Anthony Bonomo said. "All day you’re nervous leading up to the race. It’s your dream to run a race like this, and to win it is unbelievable. I don’t know what to feel like anymore, except to know I’m elated.

"When we saw him making the turn, we knew he had a lot of horse, and we knew that’s how he likes to run. We thought he had enough to come home and win, and there’s nothing like watching your horse pass the finish line. It’s exciting. It’s really a great race. I’ll think about (the Kentucky Derby) in about nine hours. Right now this was a great win and we’re just thrilled. He’s a good horse.”