Seven Kentucky Derby Horses in Seven Days: Always Dreaming
Previously trained by Dominick Schettino, Always Dreaming opened his racing career last summer with a pair of placings as the favorite in Saratoga maiden races. After being transferred to Todd Pletcher in the fall, he returned from a five-month layoff to post an 11 ½-length maiden win going two turns at Tampa Bay Downs in late January.
Dark bay colt has not looked back, recording three straight convincing wins to open his three-year-old campaign capped by the best prep victory of the season when tons-the-best in the Florida Derby (G1). $350,000 son of Bodemeister made a believer out of me in the punishing score at Gulfstream Park and while Classic Empire will be the morning-line choice, I have a hard time believing Always Dreaming will not be the Kentucky Derby favorite by post time.
He possesses ample speed, recording front-running wins in the first two starts this year, and Always Dreaming has displayed his versatility by rating just off the pace and passing horses. Pletcher has raved about his morning exercises on a few occasions, saying he “trained as well as any horse he had at Palm Beach Downs this winter,” and it looked like the famed Churchill Downs strip was to his liking, as well, when he scorched five panels in a “bullet” :59 3/5 on Friday.
I wouldn’t say Always Dreaming has a “classic” pedigree for Triple Crown races, though Bodemeister would have been a Kentucky Derby winner in many years when finishing a big second in 2012. And the way Always Dreaming finished strongly in his last two starts at 1 1/8 miles (112 and 99 BRIS Late Pace Ratings) eases the concern over his fitness and ability to handle longer distances.
Pletcher’s go-to pilot, John Velazquez, must have thought a lot of his potential early in the season, giving up mounts at Gulfstream to travel to Tampa to ride him in a Wednesday maiden race. And if the Hall of Fame jockey is impressed by a horse, so am I. Always Dreaming appears to have it all including one of the more efficient strides you will see.
I will go out on a limb and say Always Dreaming takes the lead at the top of the stretch, only to get passed late by McCraken.