CRAWFORD | Still Dreaming: At the barn the morning after Always - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Still Dreaming: At the barn the morning after Always Dreaming's Kentucky Derby win

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Always Dreaming in his stall, the morning after winning Kentucky Derby 143. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford) Always Dreaming in his stall, the morning after winning Kentucky Derby 143. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford)
Trainer Todd Pletcher flashes a smile the morning after winning his second Kentucky Derby. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford) Trainer Todd Pletcher flashes a smile the morning after winning his second Kentucky Derby. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford)
Co-owner Anthony Bonomo has a treat for Always Dreaming the morning after winning the Kentucky Derby. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford) Co-owner Anthony Bonomo has a treat for Always Dreaming the morning after winning the Kentucky Derby. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford)
Co-owner Vincent Viola talks about Always Dreaming's Kentucky Derby win. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford) Co-owner Vincent Viola talks about Always Dreaming's Kentucky Derby win. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – It was a peppermint and pats kind of morning for Always Dreaming, as the sun rose following his victory in Kentucky Derby 143.

Gone was the rain that plagued the weekend, as the sun shone on a sleepy Churchill Downs backside. The Derby winner stayed in his stall, lest his legendary eagerness get him into some mischief. But he had plenty of visitors, even after a long night of celebrating.

Trainer Todd Pletcher said he went back to the hotel near the track where he stays and celebrated with family and friends in a conference room there. A morning after winning his second Derby, he said the experience had lost none of its luster from seven years ago, when he won with Super Saver.

“It feels awesome,” he said. “I think it’s still sinking in. It’s a great big feeling that you get to share with a lot of people. I’m just really happy for the connections, really happy for the horse. The first one is special, but this one is just as good or even better. 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.”

Pletcher was smiling, something you don’t see all that often when he arrives for work at the track. He joked around as he was presented a Dodge Ram pickup for winning the Derby. Pletcher said he’ll keep the truck, but donate the cost of the truck to the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance.

Owners Anthony Bonomo and Vincent Viola arrived at the barn shortly after Pletcher. Neither slept Saturday night. They went back to their hotel downtown where a party was waiting, Viola provided the food.

“We ordered 350 White Castle hamburgers,” Viola said. “And about 30 chicken sandwiches for the health conscious.”

White Castles, champagne, bourbon, and a lot of disbelief.

“I haven’t touched the ground yet,” Bonomo said. “The whole enormity of the day and the buildup to it -- I didn’t’ sleep all week because I was nervous, and I didn’t sleep last night because I was so happy. I don’t know how we’re going to get some, but I will. Vinny and I last night, I don’t know what time it was, there’s a time of the night where normal human beings go to bed, and we had a moment, where we still couldn’t believe what went on. We were still pinching ourselves this morning. The whole thing. The walk over, it was something like I’ve never experienced. It was more than you expected. Everybody says it’s two minutes, it was two years.”

Viola, too, said the whole experience had an effect on him that was more pronounced than even he was prepared for.

“You all get to see and experience this from your side of the dynamic,” he told a handful of reporters gathered around him. “I wish all of you could experience, for a moment, from my perspective, because it’s such a glorious feeling. I was thinking about this last night, this is really the quintessential American spectacle. There’s nothing that intermediates between the event, the athlete and the outcome. It’s raw, and it’s majestic. And the athletes are giving their all. All of the values that make our nation so unique, and exceptional, if I can say that, or prompt that, are in this sport. And then you come back here, and people are, it’s toil, it’s beyond work. What the backside folks do is toil, on a daily basis. It’s very unique.”

If Bonomo got to the track around 8, he said he finished answering all of the text messages he got about a half hour before.

“I had 413 texts, and then you answer them and you pray they don’t answer back,” he said. “So I spent the whole night plugging in my phone and trying to answer everyone who was kind enough to congratulate us and wish us well. I just didn’t want to go to sleep before I answered them all.”

Now, they are on to Baltimore, and Pimlico Race Course, for the Preakness, which is two weeks from Derby Saturday. Pletcher has made something of a habit of sending his colts who lose in the Derby on to Belmont instead of to Maryland. He’ll do the same with Patch and Tapwrit, both of whom lost in the Derby Saturday, though he said he’d hold off on making plans with those two until the Preakness is over.

Pletcher said he’d ship Always Dreaming to Pimlico Tuesday morning, given that there are fewer horses in training there and perhaps a calmer atmosphere.

“I’m sure Todd’s got a plan, and I’ll just follow that plan,” Bonomo said. “If I could I’d just stay in the stall with the horse and go to Baltimore with him. Maybe I’ll be his groom, I don’t know.”

Among those in the winner’s circle for the Derby was University of Louisville coach Rick Pitino, a close friend of Bonomo. He even invited Bonomo to sit on the bench for the Cardinals victory over Indiana at Madison Square Garden several years back.

“Rick and I been friends for eight or nine years, but it feels like forever,” Bonomo said. “He’s just an amazing man. He’s a better human being than he is a coach. He’s a great friend. The quality of Rick is, when things like this happen it’s easy for someone to be your friend. But when you have problems or things happen, he’s one of the first calls. So he’s like a big brother. He calls me his little brother. I don’t know, I’m not that little, but we’ve just been friends for a long time. His family. We’re very, very close, so it was nice to see him come running out, and his wife and his daughter.”

Both owners say they’ll spend quite a bit of time in Baltimore in the coming weeks. And both are looking forward to going back to their home, in Brooklyn, where they first met through baseball and hanging out on stoops talking.

“Brooklyn’s a magical place,” Bonomo said. “If you have a stoop, you’re good. That’s all we did. You sit there and you talk about, in our day, it was the baseball players and football players. Things like that. It’s a place where everybody’s the same. Everybody’s dad is the same type of laborer or blue collar guy. It’s the type of place where if you had a dollar and another guy had 60 cents and some had no money and there’s eight of you, you buy the sandwich and you cut it up in eight pieces. You know. We all just stayed together, and that’s what’s magical. Your friends are your friends for life. I’m sure we’re going to have to make a trip there. And thank God Vinny’s been so successful, because I told him he’s buying.”

Bonomo will spend another day, at least in Louisville, maybe longer. He said he’s not even thinking about the Preakness, let alone the Triple Crown.

“I want to enjoy this for a little bit,” he said.

As for Always Dreaming, he’ll just gallop at Pimlico. Pletcher said he expects he’ll have no major work, and just hope to keep the colt in his groove. For all the talk of his wild-child nature in workouts, Always Dreaming has proved exceptionally versatile, wherever he’s been.

“It’s great when you have a horse that has this sort of tactical speed and the ability to carry it that far,” Pletcher said. “And in the slop too. But he’s run well at Belmont, he’s run well at Saratoga, he’s run well at Tampa, he’s run well twice at Gulfstream on two very different tracks, the allowance win was on a cuppy, dry, demanding surface and the Florida Derby was on a really fast surface, and then here on a sloppy surface. So it’s great when you don’t have to worry about all the variables that you can’t control.”

In his stall, Always Dreaming looked alert and fresh. He’s lightly raced as a 3-year-old, and hasn’t lost in four races under Pletcher. He didn’t mind the crowds peeking in, snapping pictures. He was playful with grooms or owners who stopped by.

“He’s outstanding,” Pletcher said. “We just need to try to keep him as good as he is right now.”

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