November 27, 2021

Always Dreaming has ‘spring in his step’ morning after Kentucky Derby

Always Dreaming will try to add the black-eyed susans to his garland of roses (Rickelle Nelson/Horsephotos.com)

Kentucky Derby (G1) hero Always Dreaming was reported in fine fettle on Sunday morning by trainer Todd Pletcher, who is now looking ahead to the May 20 Preakness S. (G1).

“It was quite a day and quite a race,” Pletcher said. “Always Dreaming came out of it in wonderful fashion; just excellent. He ate very well last night and he’s really got some spring in his step this morning.”

The Bodemeister colt was giving groom Eliasin Beltran, who’s also cared for multiple Grade 1-winning millionaires Verrazano and Constitution, all he could handle.

As the Churchill Downs notes phrased it, Always Dreaming was “full of life and all but bouncing out of his stall in Barn 40. He was acting like he wanting to go out and do it again.”

Always Dreaming is bright-eyed the morning after Derby 143

Always Dreaming won’t be hanging around in Louisville for long. He’s scheduled to travel to Pimlico on Tuesday to gear up for the middle jewel of the Triple Crown.

“I think the fact that he was so headstrong when he got here (at Churchill) that I don’t think staying here for another week is going to be an advantage,” Pletcher said. “I don’t think going to Belmont for a week and then moving again is an advantage.

“Looking at what the options are, at Pimlico, there’s generally not a lot of horses training there. I think it will be a quiet environment, give us time to get him settled in and if we have to make any adjustments we’ll have time to do that.”

Stablemates Tapwrit (sixth) and Patch (14th), on the other hand, will be bound for Belmont Park.

As of Sunday, only three of his Derby foes were under consideration to try again in the Preakness – runner-up Lookin at Lee; fourth Classic Empire (if his mud-swollen right eye is OK); and possibly seventh-placer Gunnevera.

Pletcher’s flight out was pushed back from Sunday to Monday morning, a happy revision in the aftermath of Saturday night’s celebrations.

“The way we always do,” the trainer said of how he spent his Derby evening. “We reserve the conference room at the Residence Inn (where he stays, near Louisville International Airport) and have a nice dinner there. We had about 30 folks for it. It was a very good evening.”

Among the hundreds of congratulatory texts he received, Pletcher commented on the messages from Lute Olson, the legendary University of Arizona basketball coach (now retired), and Jason Garrett, head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.

“Hearing from two fellows like that was special,” Pletcher said.

They were particularly special to Pletcher as a University of Arizona alumnus and longtime Cowboys fan.

Seven years after his first Derby win courtesy of Super Saver, the horseman was savoring his second trophy.

“The first one is special, but this one is just as good or even better,” Pletcher said. “We felt like coming in that we had a good chance. We had some anxious moments during the week, but we were just happy to see him deliver the performance that we felt like he was capable of.

“It feels awesome. I think it’s still sinking in. It’s a great, great feeling. It’s great to be able to share it with a lot of friends and family. I’m really happy for the connections, really happy for the horse. It was great fun.”