Reason to Keep on Dreaming?
Ren Hakim Carothers
I can admit when I’m wrong. It’s not that I wasn’t impressed with Always Dreaming’s sensational Florida Derby victory, the fastest since Alydar in 1978. It’s not that I couldn’t see that the colt hailed from a mighty impressive sire line, especially in terms of Derby performances, or that he was a ½ brother to G1-winner Hot Dixie Chick and out of G3-winner/G1-placed Above Perfection. I simply thought this relatively lightly raced boy might be his own worst enemy, headstrong and ill at ease, preparing for the biggest test of his career. Draw reins are a major put-off, as used too aggressively, they can cause some serious neck issues when the equine is collected so far behind the vertical.
I should have known better. It wasn’t some inexperienced trainer who felt the equipment addition necessary, it was a seven-time Eclipse Award winning conditioner. I’m sorry for doubting you, Todd Pletcher.
The hype surrounding Always Dreaming was legitimate. I stopped by the barn Derby Eve morning, and there he was, relaxing at the front of his stall, eyes heavily blinking away a bid for more sleep. I mused that he was aptly named. The meaning behind the name, however, goes beyond a literal reverie.
Always Dreaming was a product of aspiration, of unfinished business. He is the son of Bodemeister, who set scorching fractions of 22.32, 45.39, 1:09.80 – the fourth-fastest six furlongs in Derby history - in his 2012 run for the roses. Ultimately, he couldn’t hold off I’ll Have Another and had to settle for second, the same finish his sire, Empire Maker, mustered under the spires in 2003; the same finish as another son of Empire Maker in 2009, Pioneerof the Nile, who went on to sire our first Triple Crown winner in 37-years, American Pharoah. The third stallion in Always Dreaming’s direct sire line also captured Derby glory before creating this dynasty – Unbridled, in 1990.
The ability to carry speed over a distance is also found in the form of Always Dreaming’s damsire, In Excess. Who can forget his record-setting performance in the mile and a quarter Suburban, stopping the clock in 1:58.33? Additionally, this colt sports four lines of the breed-shaping Northern Dancer, a Derby and Preakness winner, through four different sons: El Gran Senor, Storm Bird, Nijinsky, and the lesser known, G1-placed Somethingfabulous. He is the sire of Always Dreaming’s second dam and a ½ brother to the immortal Secretariat, whose daughters Terlingua and Weekend Surprise are also found in the pedigree through sons Storm Cat and A.P. Indy, respectively.
With a pedigree like this, it’s no wonder he ran so impressively at Churchill. That being written, there is another colt who hails from the same sire line, a son of Pioneerof the Nile, looking to turn the tables at Pimlico: Classic Empire. 2016’s Eclipse Champion 2yo Male, and my Derby pick, was crushed out of the gate and came out of the race with a swollen right eye. If he looked bad, though, you should have seen the others he left in his wake, as this gutty boy managed to hang on for fourth, despite the rough-up. He comes from hardy stock. Again, he’s a son of 2009 Derby runner-up Pioneerof the Nile, and out of a daughter of Cat Thief, who was third in the 1999 edition and beat older in the Breeders’ Cup Classic that same year. Classic Empire’s second dam was a G1-placed stakes winner named In Her Glory, a daughter of Miswaki, whose speedy influence is something I love to see in that position of the pedigree. Furthermore, Classic Empire’s female family traces to Alanesian, the dam of Boldnesian, who is the sire of Bold Reasoning – the father of Triple Crown champion Seattle Slew.
There will also be a few new shooters coming at Always Dreaming in the Preakness. Among them is Cloud Computing, who has just three starts under the girth, but each finish has been in the money, the last being a third-place effort in the Wood Memorial to Irish War Cry and Battalion Runner. Granted, the former managed only tenth in the Derby, and the latter didn’t even contest the race after getting outworked by a turfer, but this doesn’t negate the possibility of a horse on the developmental improve, and fresh, having a shot to score.
Cloud Computing is a son of Maclean’s Music, who raced only once, but posted a 114 Beyer that day, the highest debut figure recorded since their introduction. You may also remember that Maclean’s Music is a ½ brother to graded-stakes winner Kentuckian, and is a son of Distorted Humor, whose progeny include Derby/Preakness winner Funny Cide, Belmont/BCC champ Drosselmeyer, and Travers Stakes victor Flower Alley – the sire of Derby/Preakness winner I’ll Have Another. Cloud Computing has a black-type female family, too. His dam is G2-placed Quick Temper, a ½ sister to G1-placed Marino Marini, and his maternal “grandma” is G1-millionaire Halo America. Such genes could definitely add up to success, and at what should be a nice price.
As of this writing, there are eleven horses pointing toward the Preakness. Only one of them has a shot at capturing the elusive Triple Crown. Whether or not the opportunity stays alive heading to Belmont remains to be seen, but, for now, it’s nice to ponder the possibility…to keep on dreaming…