Anthony Bonomo’s Preakness Diary: ‘A Part of History’

The Life
Preakness favorite Always Dreaming gets a bath at Pimlico on May 18. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Anthony Bonomo, who grew up in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, N.Y., and his wife, MaryEllen, got involved in thoroughbred racing as owners in 2006, when they purchased two horses that raced under the banner of Brooklyn Boyz Stable. Bonomo later joined forces with boyhood friend Vinnie Viola, owner of the National Hockey League’s Florida Panthers, in expanding his operation.

They head the group that owns Always Dreaming, who points to the Preakness Stakes at Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course on May 20 after a commanding victory in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands extended his perfection to four victories in as many starts this season.

Bonomo provided followers of America’s Best Racing with a two-part diary leading to the Kentucky Derby. He has agreed to do the same for the Preakness. Here is the second installment of his two-part Preakness diary, as told to Tom Pedulla:

When Always Dreaming drew post five for the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field, I loved it because my wife was born on May 5 (the year not to be revealed upon threat of death). That position turned out to be ideal, and our lives changed forever when a 2 ¾-length victory made our biggest dreams come true.

When we got post four for the 10-horse Preakness on Saturday, I received all the reassurance I needed when Todd Pletcher, our trainer, looked me in the eye and said, “I like the draw.”

It might have been better if we had drawn outside of Conquest Mo Money, who has a ton of speed and will break from post 10. But he will have to be used early to secure good position and John Velazquez, our jockey, will be able to keep a good eye on Classic Empire, one of our top rivals, since he starts right beside us in post five.

With the Derby, I thought there was a chance the draw could get us beaten if we had been unlucky there. It is a different deal with the Preakness. Either Always Dreaming is going to be good enough or he will not be. We pray that he will be good enough.

Bonomo and John Velazquez celebrate after the Derby. (Coady Photography)

I feel as though the entire parish at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Williamsburg is praying along with us.  Monsignor Jamie Gigantiello of Our Lady of Mount Carmel gave Velazquez a scapular, a religious symbol intended to provide for a good journey, before Velazquez flew to Louisville. John wore it on Derby day. I am sure he will still have it draped around his neck on Saturday.

The old neighborhood has been incredibly supportive since our life-changing victory. I received hundreds of texts. Most of them were from people I grew up with on the streets and stoops of Williamsburg. Vinnie and I left that neighborhood, but that neighborhood never leaves you. The friends we made there are friends we will have forever.

This whole amazing experience caused me to look back at so many things, including our days at Belmont Park. We were not even $2 bettors when we were kids. We would put some singles together. If a horse paid $10, we thought we were rich.

I admit I have thought about what it would be like to go to Belmont Park with a shot at a Triple Crown. I can only imagine what such a homecoming would feel like, what a big event that would be for New York. When you talk about Brooklyn being in the house, trust me, Brooklyn would be in the house!

I am already being asked if Always Dreaming will run as a 4-year-old. I can say we love having him around and we know that racing needs stars. One of the sport’s biggest problems is that fans become attached to horses and then they are suddenly gone, off to the breeding shed. If at all possible, we would like to keep Always Dreaming running. We are having the time of our lives. Who would want it to end?

Meanwhile, there is a huge test ahead. I have too much respect for the other horses and their connections to make any predictions. Always Dreaming will have to run as well as he has in winning his first four races this year, if not better,  and we know it.

He shows no sign of any drop-off since the Derby. When I look at him in his stall, he remains full of energy, tearing at the feed tub. I realize he is still a kid working to fulfill his potential, just as me and Vinnie once were. He loves his peppermints, he loves playing around.

He does not know he is part of history – or that there is more history to be made.

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