Always Dreaming Gives Pletcher Yet Another Prep Win In Florida Derby

Trainer Todd Pletcher is experiencing one of his best years with 3-year-olds, winning Kentucky Derby prep races around the country with lightly-raced colts. On Saturday, he did it yet again, sending out Brooklyn Boyz Stables, Teresa Viola Stables, et. al.'s Always Dreaming to win the Grade 1 Florida Derby. The son of Bodemeister gave jockey John Velazquez a record fourth victory in the Florida Derby, winning by five lengths on the wire to cover nine furlongs on Gulfstream's main track in 1:47.47. Race favorite and Fountain of Youth winner Gunnevera finished a late-closing third, behind State of Honor in second.

“He'd been training so well I would have been disappointed had he not run well, but that was a very impressive performance,” Pletcher said.

“Well, I don't know what to say because it's so exciting,” said co-owner Anthony Bonomo (Brooklyn Boyz). “All day you're nervous leading up to the race and 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.”

As expected, the speedy Three Rules went straight to the front of the 10-horse field, scooting nearly two lengths clear of Always Dreaming in second. Gunnevera, meanwhile, heavily favored in the wagering, broke very slowly from his outermost post position, so Castellano guided him immediately over to the inside fence, settling into last. The colt appeared to get overzealous with the sharp left-handed move, and bumped into the inside rail approaching the first turn.

“I saved all the ground,” Castellano said. “I did the right thing for the horse and I tried to develop the horse. Unfortunately, he didn't have it today.”

Always Dreaming was unhurried in second as Three Rules breezed through a first quarter in 23.28 seconds, after which he appeared to steady a bit, marking the half-mile in :47.08. State of Honor and Impressive Edge moved together in the third position, with Gunnevera at least ten lengths off the lead at the rear of the field. Velazquez, aboard Always Dreaming, never asked his mount but started to creep toward the leader as the field rounded into the far turn.

When Velazquez gave him a loop of rein, Always Dreaming burst forward, swooping around the outside of Three Rules to take the lead at the head of the lane. Gunnevera had moved up to fifth at this point, but was still more than seven lengths behind the leader. All the way down the stretch, Always Dreaming continued to draw away from his rivals with little encouragement from his jockey; at the wire, it was Always Dreaming in front by five lengths.

State of Honor kept on well to finish second, just 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Gunnevera's late rush to be third. Impressive Edge was another half-length back in fourth, a good showing for his first trip around two turns.

Of Gunnevera, jockey Javier Castellano said: “He just never really grabbed a hold of the bit like he has in his previous races.”

“He finished strong but the horses in the front weren't stopping,” added Gunnevera's trainer Antonio Sano. “I'm happy. This is an important race to win, but it was a good race for the next one.”

Trainer Mark Casse added that while his colt State of Honor was clearly second-best today, he “wouldn't be surprised” if the owners opted to bring the colt to the Kentucky Derby.

The winner was bred in Kentucky by the Santa Rosa Partners, and then was a $350,000 Keeneland September Yearling purchase by agent Steve Young. As a 2-year-old, Always Dreaming was third and the second in his first two starts in New York. Given a four-month rest, the colt graduated with ease at Tampa Bay Downs in January, then came back to score a four-length allowance victory in his most recent start at Gulfstream. Overall, Always Dreaming boasts three wins from five starts, for earnings of over $650,000.

“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,” Pletcher said. “Certainly, that's why we were here today to hopefully get the points to go on. With two mile and an eighth wins and the way he galloped out today, I'm confident he'll get the trip. Like always, you want them to stay healthy and you have to have some good luck for the next five weeks.”

The post Always Dreaming Gives Pletcher Yet Another Prep Win In Florida Derby appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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