Concerned that possibly his best hope for a second Kentucky Derby win was still a bit too eager, trainer Todd Pletcher opted to send Always Dreaming out for another 5:45 a.m. gallop rather than subject him to the hubbub of Churchill Downs’ regularly scheduled and much more highly attended 8:30 a.m. window.
“Getting to the track can be a challenge in itself just getting down the road here,” Pletcher said. “We’re looking for a quiet environment. There’s not too many quiet environments here at the moment, but we felt like the 5:45 time was a little quieter.”
Monday, the Florida Derby winner had a new exercise rider in Nick Bush and the addition of stronger “draw reins” to help keep him from getting off to too big of a gallop. The move saw progress in its first go, but Pletcher was far more pleased with how the dark bay colt responded Tuesday.
“I would like for him to be a little more relaxed,” Pletcher said. “I thought this morning we made a lot of progress, the last two mornings we made a lot of progress. So, I was very comfortable with the way he galloped this morning. … The horse is moving fantastic. We just want to be able to control that energy, and I think we’ve made good strides in doing that overnight.”
Bush described Tuesday’s ride as “100 percent better. He didn’t fight me at all.”
While Pletcher wanted things quiet for Always Dreaming on the track, his connections enjoyed a bit of a higher profile in the barn area. Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin stopped by and chatted with Pletcher and a number of members of Always Dreaming’s ownership group, including Brooklyn Boyz Stables partner Anthony Bonomo and West Point Thoroughbreds’ Terry Finley.
Always Dreaming nipped a little at Bevin’s sportcoat as Pletcher and the governor talked in front of his stable.
Bonomo also held court with members of the media, bragging about how his son broke the budget at Keeneland’s September Yearling Sale two years ago. By Bodemeister out of Above Perfection, Always Dreaming sold for $350,000.
“I can tell you two years ago on the day we bought him I was really upset,” Bonomo said of his son Anthony Jr.’s buy. “Flash forward two years and I can’t kiss him enough. I don’t tell him that because then he’ll just have free rein, right? He has a keen eye.”
For the Brooklyn Boyz partnership of Bonomo, childhood friend Vinnie Viola and their wives, Maryellen and Teresa, horse racing has become a way of bringing family and friends closer together and has become a source of pride for their old neighborhood.
“This has been, for us, magical,” Bonomo said. “There’s not a day we’re not on the phones talking about a horse that’s running or something that’s going on. … (This week) Vinnie and I are just walking around hugging each other all day. We can’t believe where we are. Our neighborhood where we grew up, we were all sports nuts. (Viola owns the NHL’s Florida Panthers) We all competed. The whole neighborhood’s rallied behind us. We feel like we’ve got the whole neighborhood on our back. Your phone goes off the hook. By 11 o’clock you’re out of power.
“It’s great because every friend calls you and tells you what the horse should be doing. How he should eat. How he should drink. … Everybody wants us to win.”
First steps out: Thunder Snow, Godolphin Racing’s UAE Derby winner out of Ireland, made his first visit to the main track at Churchill Downs after being released from quarantine Tuesday morning. Also making their first appearance on the track were Irish War Cry and Gormley, who arrived Monday.
Coming soon: Fast and Accurate jogged 2 miles at 6 a.m. under exercise rider Joel Cano on Tuesday morning at Trackside Louisville. Trainer Mike Maker said the Spiral Stakes winner would ship to Churchill Downs on Tuesday afternoon.
Girvin went out at 6 a.m. at Keeneland and galloped a mile for trainer Joe Sharp.
“He went out first set and had a great gallop,” said Sharp, who is training his first Derby starter. “He cooled out great. We are going to KESMARC (Kentucky Equine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Center) to the hyperbaric chamber and then heading to Churchill (Downs).”