Bodemeister (Empire Maker) didn’t manage to win any of the Triple Crown races during his Classic season in 2012, but a good many people would argue that, pound-for-pound, he had the most raw ability of any horse of his generation. Trained by Bob Baffert for Zayat Stables and, ultimately, Mike and Tiffany Moreno, the Virginia-bred was unraced at two and therefore had curses and his own inexperience to overcome, but he skyrocketed into public consciousness, winning the GI Arkansas Derby by 9 1/2 lengths in his fourth career start before holding on gamely for second in the GI Kentucky Derby after setting a wicked early pace. He also carried a daylight advantage into the final furlong of the GI Preakness S., dropping a narrow decision on the wire to I’ll Have Another (Flower Alley). His first crop of runners are of Classic age this year, and if Always Dreaming continues to progress over the next 35 days, he could very well go one better than his sire beneath the Twin Spires.
Saturday, Gulfstream Park
XPRESSBET FLORIDA DERBY-GI, $1,000,000, GP, 4-1, 3yo,
1 1/8m, 1:47.47, ft.
1–#@&ALWAYS DREAMING, 122, c, 3, by Bodemeister
1st Dam: Above Perfection (GSW & GISP, $380,737),
by In Excess (Ire)
2nd Dam: Something Perfect, by Somethingfabulous
3rd Dam: Happening, by Terrang
($350,000 Ylg ’15 KEESEP). O-Brooklyn Boyz Stables, Teresa
Viola Racing Stables et al.; B-Santa Rosa Partners (KY); T-Todd
A. Pletcher; J-John R. Velazquez. $589,000. Lifetime Record:
5-3-1-1, $648,900. *1st GSW for sire (by Empire Maker).
*1/2 to Hot Dixie Chick (Dixie Union), GISW,
$343,252. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
Werk Nick Rating: A.2–State of Honor, 122, c, 3, To Honor and Serve–State Cup, by
Elusive Quality. O-Conrad Farms; B-Manfred & Penny Conrad
(ON); T-Mark E. Casse. $190,000.3–Gunnevera, 122, c, 3, Dialed In–Unbridled Rage, by
Unbridled. ($16,000 Ylg ’15 KEESEP). O-Peacock Racing Stables,
LLC; B-Brandywine Farm & Stephen Upchurch (KY); T-Antonio
Sano. $95,000.Margins: 5, 1HF, HF. Odds: 2.70, 4.00, 1.10.
Also Ran: Impressive Edge, Three Rules, Talk Logistics, Coleman Rocky, Unbridled Holiday, Charlie the Greek, Quinientos. Scratched: Battalion Runner. Click for the Equibase.com chart, the TJCIS.com PPs or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree. VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.
Favored in each of his four trips postward, Always Dreaming gave a decent accounting of himself in his 5 1/2-furlong Belmont bow July 1, finishing a wide-trip third, then did everything except having his picture taken in a six-furlong Saratoga maiden Aug. 20, going down by a neck after looking a winner late. Those first two runs came under the guidance of Dominick Schettino, but Always Dreaming was transferred to Todd Pletcher this season, and the $350,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase ran to 1-5 favoritism in shooting clear to graduate by 11 1/2 lengths going an extended mile at Tampa Jan. 25. Trying winners for the first time at a dime on the dollar over Saturday’s course and nine-furlong trip, Always Dreaming ambled along on a pace almost too slow to be believed and came away to score by four lengths.
While heavily favored Gunnevera was off a half-step slow and guided straight down onto the fence by Javier Castellano, Always Dreaming hit the ground running and was part of the vanguard early on. Things got a bit dicey just an eighth of a mile into the proceedings when Three Rules (Gone Astray) dropped over while trying to establish a clear lead, causing Always Dreaming to cop a check, while State of Honor fired up at the rail. Easing into the backstretch, Three Rules was going along at what appeared to be a good clip and Always Dreaming pulled his way into second, always traveling comfortably and confidently for John Velazquez. Given a bit more rein entering the second turn, Always Dreaming lengthened his stride, and with Velazquez sneaking a confident look under his right armpit to see what might be coming, the second betting choice hit the front looking every bit a winner with a furlong and a half to travel. Kicked into a clear lead at the eighth pole, Always Dreaming opened up with every stride for a visually impressive score as State of Honor clung on for second. Gunnevera, far back for the opening five panels, began to make some ground on the turn and finished well down the center of the track while never a menace to the top two.
”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,” said trainer Todd Pletcher, winning the race for the third time in four years and for a record-breaking fourth time overall. “I have to be honest with you, he was training so well that I would have been disappointed had he not run well, but that was a very impressive performance. 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 [Derby] trip. Like always, you want them to stay healthy and you have to have some good luck for the next five weeks.”
What They’re Saying…
“I had a good trip. I saved all the ground in the first turn and the way he ended up, I didn’t have it today. I was riding, riding all the way in the race. He never grabbed the bit, he never pulled like he always used to. Maybe he was affected by the track–the track was speed today.”
–Javier Castellano, jockey, Gunnevera
“I had a really good trip. We took the blinkers off. He was a little keen the last time at Tampa so we took the blinkers off and tried to rate him a little bit. He was a little keen on the first turn but he switched off on the backside and he was just second-best. We got through on the fence and he gave me all he’s got. He was just second-best.”
–Julien Leparoux, jockey, State of Honor
Always Dreaming’s California-bred dam Above Perfection was an exceptionally fast sprinter and posted a pair of Beyer Speed Figures north of 110–when runner-up to champion Xtra Heat (Dixieland Heat) in the 2001 GI Prioress S. (112) and when winning the GIII Las Flores H. (113) in 2002. A $610,000 purchase out of the 2002 Fasig-Tipton November sale, Above Perfection was re-offered at that auction house’s November sale in 2006, selling in foal to Dixie Union for $450,000. The foal she was carrying at the time became Hot Dixie Chick, who was victorious in three of her first four starts at two in 2009, including the GI Spinaway S. Above Perfection was sent through the Fasig-Tipton November sale a final time later that year, but was bought back on a bid of $1.15 million. ‘TDN Rising Star’ Hot Dixie Chick, who raced in the colors of Barbara Banke’s Grace Stables, has since become the dam of SW & GSP Union Jackson (Curlin). Above Perfection is the dam of a 2-year-old filly by Medaglia d’Oro, a yearling filly by Pioneerof the Nile and was most recently covered by Honor Code.