Always Dreaming lives up to his name in Florida Derby win
Story and Photo by Teresa Genaro
“That’s what you have to do every day, especially in this business,” said co-owner Anthony Bonomo not long after his Always Dreaming earned his first stakes victory and a trip to the Kentucky Derby with an open-lengths win in the Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby. “The name that my wife picked, because that’s what you have to do every day.”
The Todd Pletcher-trained colt is owned by a host of partnerships: Brooklyn Boyz, Teresa Viola Racing Stables, St. Elias Stables, MeB Racing Stable, Siena Farm, and West Point Thoroughbreds. But at the post-race press conference, the emphasis was on two Italian guys who grew up together in Brooklyn.
“This is magical,” said Bonomo, whose wife’s horses run in the name of MeB Racing Stable. “It’s a dream to have a horse like this and share it with friends.”
From watching horses pull street carts of fruit in their native Williamsburg, Brooklyn, both Bonomo and his buddy Vincent Viola of St. Elias Stables (like Bonomo’s, Viola’s wife also has her own stable) have risen to prominence in a number of fields. Bonomo was briefly the head of the board of the New York Racing Association, and has for years been a prominent owner on the NYRA circuit, though his Brooklyn Boyz stable had never won a graded stakes race.
Viola was recently nominated to be secretary of the army (he withdrew himself from consideration) and owns the Florida Panthers, who play not far from Gulfstream Park and were crushed earlier in the day by the Boston Bruins by a score of 5-2. They sit near the bottom of their conference.
Declaring that Always Dreaming’s win does nothing to take away the sting of the Panthers’ season, Viola said, “Anything less than a Stanley Cup is a simple failure.”
And does a parallel philosophy hold for running in Kentucky Derby?
“Absolutely,” he said.
“In Brooklyn, you won,” he said. “That’s what it was about.”
Not so much for trainer Antonio Sano, whose favored Gunnevera finished third following a bad break from the far outside post and a bumpy ride.
“(Javier) Castellano told me the post position was a little problem,” said Sano, “but the horse wasn’t comfortable in the beginning. 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.”
And with 64 Kentucky Derby points in hand before the Florida Derby, Gunnevera didn’t need to win in order to secure a spot in the gate. Always Dreaming, who brought no points to the race, earned 100 points for the win, vaulting to third in the Derby standings.
Bonomo joked that friends back home were celebrating in a well-known Italian restaurant in his old neighborhood, and that Viola was likely to be hit with a big bar bill in the next couple of days.
“It’s a great place where friends are friends forever. We made a lot of friends along the way,” said Bonomo, nodding to Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez, “but it always goes back to your roots.”