04/03/2017 11:27AM

Sparkman: Empire Maker living up to his name

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Barbara D. Livingston
Always Dreaming, by Bodemeister, wins the Grade 1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.

When Empire Maker was exported to Japan in 2010, the chances of him establishing his own branch of the Fappiano male line looked extremely remote. Seven years later, with a Triple Crown winner, a champion 2-year-old male, and the possible favorite for the 2017 Kentucky Derby among his grandsons, the son of Unbridled is well on his way to living up to his name by building his own sire empire.

At the time Empire Maker was exiled to Japan, his best son was 2009 Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby winner Pioneerof the Nile, who, like his sire had finished second in the Kentucky Derby. Good racehorse that he was, it is hardly an insult to say that no one really expected Pioneerof the Nile to sire Triple Crown winner American Pharoah or 2016 champion 2-year-old male Classic Empire.

Two years after Empire Maker’s departure, another son, Bodemeister, romped in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby before also finishing second at Churchill Downs and adding an even better performance when barely succumbing to I’ll Have Another in the Preakness. That proved to be Bodemeister’s final start, but his first-crop son Always Dreaming has given him the ideal start at stud with his victory in the Grade 1 Florida Derby on April 1.

Out of the Grade 3-winning Storm Cat mare Untouched Talent whose dam Spanish Parade also was a Grade 3 winner by A.P. Indy, Bodemeister possessed a more fashionable pedigree than Pioneerof the Nile and entered stud at WinStar Farm in 2013 at a fee of $30,000. A big-shouldered, correct horse very much in the mold of his grandsire, Unbridled, Bodemeister had shown such brilliance in his six starts that breeders were willing to overlook the brevity of his racing career and the fact that he had not raced at 2.

The victory of Bode’s Dream (out of Frolic’s Dream, by Smoke Glacken) in the Astoria Stakes last June and Royal Copy’s second in the Grade 1 Hopeful in August removed the doubt about Bodemeister’s ability to get precocious 2-year-olds, and he added listed winner O Dionysus (Safe Journey, by Flatter) before the end of the year to rank third on the 2016 freshman sire list.

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Always Dreaming, who was bred in Kentucky by Santa Rosa Partners, is the ninth named foal and second Grade 1 winner produced by Above Perfection, an exceptionally fast In Excess mare whose fourth produce Hot Dixie Chick, by Dixie Union, captured the 2009 Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes. Bred in California by Old English Rancho, she won 7 of her 10 starts, including the Grade 3 Las Flores and was beaten only a neck in the Grade 1 Prioress by Racing Hall of Famer Xtra Heat.

Above Perfection twice posted half-mile splits of 43 seconds and change and regularly ran 44 and change half-miles, and Hot Dixie Chick displayed similar proclivities, running 44- and 45-second half-miles throughout her seven-race career, but Always Dreaming is a different type of horse. Though he is not as tall, his big shoulder, deep barrel, and wonderful balance strongly echo his sire.

Bloodstock agent Steve Young purchased Always Dreaming for $350,000 at the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale on behalf of Anthony and MaryEllen Bonomo’s Brooklyn Boyz Stable and MEB Racing and trainer Dominic Schettino. He showed considerable promise placing in his two starts last year at 2 before my clients Vincent and Teresa Viola bought out Schettino’s interest.

Anthony Manganaro’s Siena Farms and West Point Thoroughbreds purchased an interest in Always Dreaming after his allowance victory at Gulfstream Park on March 4.

Although Always Dreaming’s female line has been noted more for speed than stamina at least as far back as his seventh dam Pin Up Girl, by Coup de Lyon, whose daughter Review, by Panorama, was dam of the brilliant champion fillies Fleet, Pourparler, Display, and Democratie, Always Dreaming’s record indicates he is much more effective at longer distances.

With the exotic influence of In Excess as his broodmare sire, his pedigree is mostly an outcross with three crosses of Northern Dancer and two of Secretariat’s dam Somethingroyal the only duplications within the first six generations.

Above Perfection has since produced a 2-year-old Medaglia d’Oro filly sold for $485,000 to Good Luck Farm at the 2015 Keeneland November sale and a current yearling filly by Pioneerof the Nile. She was covered by Honor Code last year.

Always Dreaming is the third stakes winner to date among the 131 foals in his sire’s first crop, but Bodemeister also is the sire of American Anthem (Indy’s Windy, by A.P. Indy), who was beaten only a head by Gormley in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes and is likely to be one of the favorites in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby on April 15.