Always Dreaming, the 2017 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner, embarks on a four-year-old campaign when he leads a field of six in Saturday’s $300,000 Gulfstream Park Mile (formerly the Gulfstream Park H.) (G2).
The best three-year-old in the country through the first Saturday in May last season, Always Dreaming had preceded that classic win with a five-length romp in the Florida Derby (G1), the feature on Saturday’s card. However, the Todd Pletcher trainee wasn’t the same afterwards. After weakening to eighth in the Preakness (G1) after an early duel with Classic Empire, Always Dreaming was a well-beaten third in the Jim Dandy (G2) and then ninth behind eventual three-year-old champion West Coast in the Travers (G1).
It was later discovered Always Dreaming was suffering from ulcers, and was put away for the rest of the season. He resumes his racing career on a track over which he is two-for-two
“There are a lot of reasons that race makes sense with his success at Gulfstream and a mile being kind of an ideal distance to bring him back,” Pletcher said.
“I feel great the way he looks. He’s really matured from three to four. He’s filled out and looks great. He’s been training well. He seems to like Palm Beach Downs. Anytime you have a Derby winner you always want them to be fit and ready to run well when you bring them back. Hopefully, we’ve been able to do it.”
Irish War Cry, another prominent member of last year’s sophomore class, could prove a significant challenger. The Graham Motion charge blew hot and cold last season, scoring strong wins in the Wood Memorial (G2) and Holy Bull and placing in the Belmont S. (G1), but also threw in forgettable duds in races like the Kentucky Derby, Fountain of Youth (G2), and Haskell Invitational (G1), generally at short odds. However, Irish War Cry should move forward off a season-debut second to Economic Model in last month’s Hal’s Hope (G3), also a one-turn mile at Gulfstream.
Pletcher has another leading threat in Tommy Macho, whose fondness for Gulfstream’s one-turn mile has resulted in victories in the 2017 Hal’s Hope and back-to-back runnings of the Fred W. Hooper (G3), which he captured last time by three parts of a length over Conquest Big E.
The venerable Pennsylvania-bred gelding Page McKenney will be making his 55th career start and looks to add to his $1.796 million bankroll, while Mr. Jordan looks to win for the first time over the Gulfstream oval in his 12th try.