Always Dreaming spectacularly punched his Kentucky Derby ticket in the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park, drawing off to a five-length decision in his stakes debut. The Todd Pletcher-trained colt extended his win streak to three and picked up 100 points in the qualifying race.
From the first crop of 2012 Kentucky Derby runner-up Bodemeister, Always Dreaming provided Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez with a record fourth Florida Derby victory when completing 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.47, leaving every impression he could have run faster while scoring under wraps.
He’s owned by Brooklyn Boyz Stables, Teresa Viola Racing Stables et al.
Off as the 5-2 second choice among 10 rivals, Always Dreaming was forced to steady slightly entering the first turn before advancing to be second down the backstretch, a little more than a length back of Three Rules, who sped forward to show the way through fractions in :23.28, :47.08 and 1:10.75.
Always Dreaming edged closer rounding the far turn and reached the head of the stretch full of run, accelerating powerfully to a clear lead as he rolled home impressively.
After placing in a pair of starts last summer, Always Dreaming was transferred to Pletcher. He came back from a lengthy layoff with an 11-length maiden win at Tampa Bay Downs on January 25 and was exiting a four-length allowance tally at Gulfstream on March 4.
The dark bay colt moved toward the forefront of a deep Pletcher roster of Kentucky Derby prospects that includes Tapwrit, One Liner, Malagacy, Patch, Master Plan and Battalion Runner. Always Dreaming has now earned $647,900 from a 5-3-1-1 record.
State of Honor finished up well for second as the 4-1 third choice in the betting, 1 ½ lengths better than Fountain of Youth (G2) hero Gunnevera.
Favored at even-money, Gunnevera took up his customary positioning at the back of the field and waited too long to launch his rally, passing half the field in the final three-eighths of a mile. Gunnevera (84 points) and State of Honor (62) have locked up Kentucky Derby berths. Impressive Edge, who edged pacesetter Three Rules by a nose for fourth, isn’t Triple Crown eligible.
Bred in Kentucky by Santa Rosa Partners, Always Dreaming was purchased for $350,000 at the 2015 Keeneland September sale. He is out of the Grade 3-winning In Excess mare Above Perfection and counts the Grade 1-winning juvenile Hot Dixie Chick, who established a new 5-furlong track record at Churchill Downs breaking her maiden, as a half-sister. Hot Dixie Chick is the dam of stakes winner Union Jackson.
(Kenny Martin/Adam Coglianese Photography)