Always Dreaming, 2017 Kentucky Derby winner, retired

Sep 06, 2018 Kellie Reilly/

WinStar Farm has announced the retirement of the 2017 Kentucky Derby (G1) hero, Always Dreaming . From the first crop of Bodemeister, who was himself runner-up to champion I’ll Have Another in the 2012 Derby and Preakness (G1), Always Dreaming will enter stud in 2019 alongside his sire at WinStar.

“He was brilliantly fast, and he has everything you want in a stallion – looks, pedigree, and performance,” WinStar’s President, CEO, and racing manager Elliott Walden said in the press release.

Always Dreaming inherited high speed not only from sire Bodemeister, but also from his dam, Above Perfection. A Grade 3-winning sprinter and second by a neck to Hall of Famer Xtra Heat in the 2001 Prioress S. (G1), Above Perfection has also produced 2009 Spinaway (G1) victress Hot Dixie Chick.

Bred by Santa Rosa Partners (Gerry Dilger and Mike Ryan), Always Dreaming was a standout as a baby, as described in his episode of “Tales from the Crib,” and he sold as a yearling at Keeneland September for $350,000.

After placing in his first two starts as a juvenile for trainer Dominick Schettino, also an original co-owner, Always Dreaming was transferred to Todd Pletcher. The dark bay promptly crushed a Tampa Bay Downs maiden by 11 1/2 lengths and made it two straight with an allowance romp at Gulfstream Park.

Having stamped himself as a hot Derby prospect, Always Dreaming attracted more partners to his ownership group. Now joining MeB Racing, Brooklyn Boyz, Teresa Viola, and St. Elias Stable were Siena Farm and West Point Thoroughbreds.

Always Dreaming furnished a rapid return on investment in the Florida Derby (G1), where he opened up by five lengths. His final time of 1:47.47 ranked as the fastest in the 1 1/8-mile contest since Hall of Famer Alydar, best remembered for his epic battles with Affirmed in the 1978 Triple Crown.

“We dream about the Kentucky Derby every day,” Walden said, “but the race I really liked was the Florida Derby. When I saw the teletimer, I was amazed.”

Sent off as the 9-2 favorite in the “Run for the Roses,” Always Dreaming worked out another favorable tracking trip for Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez. He took command as the field prepared to leave the backstretch, repelled challenges on the far turn, and drew off to a 2 3/4-length victory at Churchill Downs.

Always Dreaming brought a four-race winning streak into the Preakness, only to fade to eighth as the 6-5 favorite. A freshening was prescribed ahead of the summer meet at Saratoga, but he was still below form when a distant third of five in the Jim Dandy (G2) and ninth in the Travers (G1). A reason was soon found for his poor performances: Always Dreaming had developed a significant case of stomach ulcers.

Treated, rested, and pointed toward a 2018 campaign, Always Dreaming returned with a second-place effort in the March 31 Gulfstream Park Mile (G2). Hopes were high that would set him up for the May 4 Alysheba (G2) back at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Oaks Day, but he was again subpar in fifth.

Always Dreaming, who had not posted a timed work since, retires with a record of 11-4-2-2 and earnings of $2,415,860.    

“He was one of the most athletic horses I have ever trained,” Pletcher said. “He has a terrific bounce to him. I compare him to a panther, a fluid mover.” 

Walden noted that Always Dreaming represents the outstanding sire line of 1990 Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) champion Unbridled.

“We are excited to add a potentially breed-shaping stallion from the Unbridled line, which has proven to be today’s preeminent classic sire line.” 

The sire of 1996 Kentucky Derby winner Grindstone, who is in turn the paternal grandsire of 2009 Derby shocker Mine That Bird, Unbridled has carved out an enduring legacy through another son, 2003 Derby runner-up Empire Maker. Not only is Empire Maker the sire of Bodemeister, but yet another Derby second-placer in Pioneerof the Nile, later famous for siring 2015 Triple Crown star American Pharoah.

Always Dreaming will stand for a fee of $25,000 at the Versailles, Kentucky, establishment.

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