BALTIMORE — If you watched him standing calmly in Pimlico’s stakes barn on a sultry Thursday afternoon, you wouldn’t have guessed that Always Dreaming had been full of energy that morning. The Kentucky Derby winner has been showing plenty of juice in his gallops, giving trainer Todd Pletcher confidence that he’ll run big again Saturday.
The rangy son of Bodemeister has won four in a row for Pletcher since going 0-for-2 last summer with Dominick Schettino. His 2¾-length Derby victory made him the 4-5 morning-line favorite for the 142nd Preakness, and don’t be surprised if he’s 3-5 or even lower at post time, 6:48.
Woodbury resident Anthony Bonomo spent $350,000 for the colt, $100,000 above the limit he had given his son, Anthony Jr., at the September 2015 Keeneland yearling sale. The elder Bonomo was in a meeting in New York when the deal went down in Lexington, Kentucky, and he wasn’t happy when he heard the price.
“A couple of years ago, I was really upset,” Bonomo told a local television reporter Wednesday. “But I have a renewed love for my son right now. It’s the best overspending he’s ever done.”
Anthony Jr. chimed in, “Can we get that on camera? OK, you got that on camera. My father has taken good care of me for 30 years, so I’m glad I could do this for him.”
“I did the easy part, writing the check,” the elder Bonomo said. “It was more than I wanted, but now it’s the best money I ever spent.”
Always Dreaming has earned more than $2.28 million for Brooklyn Boyz Stables and MeB Racing Stables (both owned by Bonomo and his wife, MaryEllen) and their partners — Teresa Viola Racing Stables, St. Elias Stable, Siena Farm and West Point Thoroughbreds. The winner’s share of the $1.5-million Preakness purse is worth $900,000.
Expect Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez to play the break on Always Dreaming, who has won by leading throughout and also by sitting just off the pace, as he did in the Derby. His tactical speed and strong finishing kick are a matchless combination. If Always Dreaming gets off to a good start, as usual, from post 4, Velazquez can choose between setting the pace and stalking. Longshot Conquest Mo Money is expected to try for the lead, but he may not be quick enough to get it from the outside post in the field of 10.
Classic Empire, the 2016 2-year-old champion, had a nightmare Derby, finishing a distant fourth under Julien Leparoux after being sandwiched at the start and bothered in midstretch. He’s the 3-1 second choice and considered the main threat. Leparoux, in post 5, probably will try to track Always Dreaming and root for a quick pace. Cloud Computing should be in midpack, and closers Lookin At Lee, Multiplier, Hence, Gunnevera, Term of Art and Senior Investment will be far behind.
On paper, it’s Always Dreaming’s race to lose, but these events often don’t follow the script. Handicappers calculate and agonize obsessively over an equation in which the numbers may not fit. “This is a crazy business,” Bonomo said. “I’ve never seen one with so many highs and lows.”
The ultimate rush would be to raise the Triple Crown trophy at Belmont Park two years after American Pharoah ended a 36-year drought. Bonomo was asked Wednesday if he had thought about the possibility.
“I’d be lying if I said no,’’ he said. “Belmont is our home track, and I’d love to go for it. Hopefully, on Saturday the best horse will win, and we hope that it’s our horse.”