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Always Dreaming rewards many with Kentucky Derby victory

UPDATED: Sat., May 6, 2017

Vinny Viola celebrates after Always Dreaming won the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs Saturday, May 6, 2017, in Louisville, Ky. (Garry Jones / Associated Press)
Vinny Viola celebrates after Always Dreaming won the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs Saturday, May 6, 2017, in Louisville, Ky. (Garry Jones / Associated Press)
By Gary B. Graves Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Already well connected in the business world, Anthony Bonomo hooked up with trainer Todd Pletcher to prepare an entry for the Kentucky Derby.

Bonomo’s wife, MaryEllen, offered up Always Dreaming’s name because of her proclivity for thinking big.

The dark brown colt then fulfilled a dream come true for a multitude of people by winning the marquee race going away on Saturday.

A succession of Brooklyn accents spoke loudly in the joyous aftermath of Always Dreaming’s 2 3/4-length victory as the favorite at Churchill Downs. Leading the way was Anthony Bonomo, who thanked many people for claiming one of sport’s most coveted trophies, including grooms, hotwalkers and exercise riders.

“I don’t even know if there’s words that could describe this,” Bonomo said. “It’s a team. We can’t forget.”

Always Dreaming’s primary ownership is comprised of Bonomo’s Brooklyn Boyz Stables and Teresa Viola, whose husband Vincent owns the NHL’s Florida Panthers. Vincent Viola was born in Brooklyn.

But front and center was Bonomo, who heads a medical malpractice insurance firm in New York and is a big-time political donor. He stepped down from the state’s racing’s association after his firm was tied to a corruption scandal resulting in the conviction of Republican state Senate majority leader Dean Skelos in 2015. Bonomo was not accused of any wrongdoing, but said he did not want to be a distraction to racing as the case played out.

As might be expected from two successful guys from the neighborhood, he and Viola reveled in Always Dreaming’s win together.

“To me, it represents everybody who went to the racetrack for the first time with their dads and were just astonished by the brilliance of these equine athletes and fell in love with the sport,” Vincent Viola said.

The crowning achievement for the New Yorkers also provided redemption of sorts for Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez.

Pletcher’s penchant for saturating the Derby field with entrants – 45 in all – had yielded only a 2010 victory with Super Saver. Velazquez won the Run for the Roses in 2011 aboard Animal Kingdom but had mostly been a non-factor since.

But that combination, along with Always Dreaming’s three straight victories in five career starts, helped the horse surpass Classic Empire as the 9-2 favorite Saturday morning. Always Dreaming then followed through in the slop by coming on in the backstretch and taking charge entering the turn for home.

An emotional Pletcher credited Bonomo and Viola for laying out the strategy that earned them all a satisfying victorty.

“As you know in this business, sometimes it works out. A lot of times it doesn’t,” Pletcher said of the strategy devised with Bonomo and Viola. “When you kind of have a vision four or five months in advance, then it all comes together, it’s especially rewarding.”

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