Anthony Bonomo doesn’t have to dream of Derby glory anymore.
The Brooklyn native and St. John’s University alum is riding high this week as Always Dreaming, the horse he acquired in 2015, won the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby last Saturday.
The 3-year-old colt — ridden by horse racing Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez and trained by legend Todd Pletcher — went into the iconic race as the favorite to win and he did just that.
Heavy rain prior to the race had turned the track into a mud pit, but Always Dreaming dashed out to the front right out of the gate, trading the lead with State of Honor. Always Dreaming stormed ahead during the final turn, eventually crossing the line more than two lengths ahead of Looking at Lee.
“It’s been done thousands of times in my mind,” Bonomo said of winning the Kentucky Derby at the postrace press conference. “But to have it happen in reality, it’s amazing.”
A 1980 graduate of St. John’s University and pitcher on the school’s baseball team, the Manhasset, LI resident and Always Dreaming co-owner Vincent Viola — who, as kids, would frequent races at Aqueduct and Belmont Park and pay other attendees to place bets for them — partnered in 2015 to run the former’s Brooklyn Boyz Stables.
That year, Bonomo’s son, St. John’s University Law School student Anthony Bonomo Jr., helped broker a deal to buy Always Dreaming for $350,000, thousands of dollars over the price limit his father set for him.
A number of St. John’s University figures are happy the younger Bonomo did just that, as they took to social media after the Kentucky Derby to congratulate the family.
“Congrats, Anthony!” university athletic director Anton Goff wrote on Twitter. “St. John’s Red Storm Nation is behind you.”
“Big day for St. John’s!” posted RedZone, the school’s official student fan group. “Congrats to Always Dreaming and Anthony Bonomo, a St. John’s University alum, on their Kentucky Derby victory!”
Even rival Jay Wright, the head coach of Villanova University’s men’s basketball team, gave his friend a shoutout.
“One of life’s good guys!” Wright said on Twitter. “We’re so proud.”
With the first leg of the famed Triple Crown under its belt, Always Dreaming will race in the Preakness later this month, Bonomo announced.
If the horse wins that race, Bonomo and Viola will return to their native New York in June for the Belmont Stakes, the last leg of the Triple Crown.
In 2015, American Pharoah became the first horse since 1978 to accomplish that historic feat. Ironically, he and Always Dreaming have the same grandfather, 2003 Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker.
The former chairman of the New York Racing Association and chief executive of Physicians’ Reciprocal Insurers, Bonomo made headlines in 2015 when he testified that he gave former state Sen. Dean Skelos’ son, Adam, what amounted to a no-show job out of fear for retribution from the former.
Both Skeloses were later convicted on corruption charges and sentenced to prison time.
Viola, a billionaire military veteran, is the owner of the Florida Predators NHL franchise and, most recently, was President Trump’s original nominee for Secretary of the Army before withdrawing his name from consideration in February.