Always Dreaming Officially Ruled Out of Belmont Stakes


Always Dreaming, winner of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1), will bypass the June 10 Belmont Stakes (G1) as expected and be freshened for a summer campaign, Terry Finley of West Point Thoroughbreds confirmed May 26.

The decision to skip the final leg of the Triple Crown was one trainer Todd Pletcher was leaning heavily in favor of after Always Dreaming faded to eighth in the May 20 Preakness Stakes (G1) after being pressed by champion Classic Empire through the early fractions.

With the Preakness representing the fifth start this year for the son of Bodemeister   and no Triple Crown on the line, Finley said the ownership group opted to regroup and point for the Travers Stakes (G1) at Saratoga Race Course Aug. 26, with either the Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) or Haskell Invitational Stakes (G1) as possible preps.

“Todd ended up conferring with the majority partners (Vinnie Viola and Anthony Bonomo) and I think they just want to take a deep breath with him,” said Finley, whose West Point Thoroughbreds owns a 25% interest in Always Dreaming. “There are some really exciting spots for him later in the year. Certainly the big one is the Travers. So that was the thinking—we take a pause here and regroup.”

Owned by the partnership of MeB Racing, Brooklyn Boyz Stable, Teresa Viola, St Elias Stable, Siena Farm, and West Point Thoroughbreds, Always Dreaming captured the Kentucky Derby by 2 3/4 lengths May 6 in his fourth straight win since joining Pletcher’s barn last September.

Disappointing as it was to see the dark bay colt struggle home over the Pimlico Race Course surface, Finley has kept the perspective of what Always Dreaming has already achieved in the forefront.

“As my good friend Lynn Whiting said… the Derby never washes off, and that’s a very apt way to address it and to look at it,” Finley said. “We’re never going to let the Derby wash off of us and that’s something they’re never going to take away from Always Dreaming.”

While Always Dreaming was officially declared out of the 1 1/2-mile classic Friday, graded stakes winner J Boys Echo is likely to move forward to New York, according to Jason Loutsch of owner Albaugh Family Stable.

Loutsch said J Boys Echo, who finished 15th in the Kentucky Derby, is slated to work at Churchill Downs May 27 and will head to the Belmont Stakes as long as he emerges from the move with the green light from trainer Dale Romans.

“If all goes good tomorrow and he comes back good on Sunday, we’ll go,” said Loutsch, who added a jockey assignment is still being sorted out.

Though J Boys Echo had a troubled run in the Kentucky Derby, Loutsch pointed to the fact that the son of Mineshaft   captured the March 4 Gotham Stakes (G3), finishing 3 1/2 lengths in front of eventual Preakness Stakes winner Cloud Computing.

“With us beating him in the Gotham it gave us a little bit of justification for that race,” Loutsch said. “I think a lot of people were maybe discounting that race and to see that horse come back and win the Preakness, it tells you that Cloud Computing is a quality horse. So we’re hoping with ‘J Boy,’ we’re just going to draw a line through the Derby. He got hammered out of the gate and never ran a lick.”

John Oxley’s Classic Empire, runner-up in the Preakness, returned to the track for the first time since his Baltimore trip, having an easy one-mile jog at Churchill Downs Friday morning.

At Santa Anita Park Friday, Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2) winner Irap worked six furlongs in 1:14 2/5 in preparation for his expected Belmont Stakes run.

He’s going to improve from the gate,” Lewis said of the son Tale of Ekati, who has had excuses in each of his four starts, twice victimized by slow getaways and twice by being squeezed at the break.

He’s just developing,” Lewis added. “He’s been gelded and he’ll have blinkers on him now, so I think he’ll be better in the gate. Nobody knows what the two turns are going to bring, although he acts like a two-turn horse, but sometimes they fool you.

From Craig Lewis, trainer of Here Is Happy, who will run in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita on Saturday. This is first step toward the Santa Anita Derby.

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