When Live In The Dream won the Nunthorpe Stakes at York, the first question some asked was when had Epsom last produced a Group 1 winner.
That answer was Harbour Law in the 2016 St Leger. However, the 28-1 success on the Knavesmire was even more profound than that because it was the first Group victory of any kind for an Epsom trainer since that Town Moor triumph seven years earlier.
When the Nunthorpe winner’s owner, ROA member Steve De’Lemos, spoke to Owner Breeder, he had certainly at least begun the descent from Cloud Nine, without perhaps both feet having reached the ground.
Trainer Adam West had also spoken about the victory still feeling surreal days after, and it taking a while to sink in.
Whether there will be a longer-term uplift for a training centre very much in need of one remains to be seen, but for Live In The Dream’s connections, there will always be the memories from the
2023 Ebor meeting.
Explaining his roots, De’Lemos says: “I grew up two minutes from Epsom racecourse, I used to walk the dog up there and round the track. In those days there were only about three meetings a year, with the Derby run on a Wednesday.
“There was just a ‘wow!’ to watching the horses go round, everyone used to call it the Sport of Kings in those days but it’s very accessible now. It was a dream of mine to own a racehorse.
“We had our first soiree in that regard with Josh Gifford 20-odd years ago. He was a fantastic person, great fun to be around and made it very enjoyable, albeit we never experienced a win.
“Then we had a share in a horse called Word Is My Bond with some good friends. He was on for a hat-trick at Goodwood but got beaten by a horse of George Baker’s. I met Candida [Baker] at Goodwood, she introduced me to George, and it wasn’t long before [my wife] Jolene and I had a horse with them. We also had Tap Tap Boom, who did very well.”
The link-up with West came via a chance encounter, but it has ultimately led to living the dream.
“I bumped into Adam at a local cricket club, and got a share in a horse with him,” says De’Lemos. “We said, ‘Go and buy us one’, and so he bought Ginge N Tonic, who won at 25-1 at Lingfield.
“The money we made that day was reinvested in another horse at the sales, Live In The Moment. During lockdown he won five out of five, then Adam said his half-brother was coming up for sale, so the money we made from Live In The Moment was used to buy him.
“Philippa Mains, a lovely lady, was at the sales and did the bidding for us. She came on the phone to congratulate us and say we’d got ourselves a nice little horse. And he is a little horse, he’s not even 15 hands. That was Live In The Dream and the rest is history, we’ve got the Nunthorpe winner. What a journey!”
Live In The Dream, known as Fred at his Epsom yard, was already a five-time winner before his York heroics under Sean Kirrane, but only in novice or handicap company; the Nunthorpe was his first try at the top level. If all goes to plan, it won’t be his last.
“He’s small but by God is he quick, he’s gone before most of them are coming out of the stalls, and he’s got a great head and heart to go with it, he’s uncomplicated,” says De’Lemos.
“Ruby Walsh’s analysis after the Nunthorpe was excellent, as he described him as more like a Wesley Ward horse at Ascot than an English horse at York.
“It took a few days to sink in, and the hangover took a few days to get over too. I don’t normally suffer from them, but this one was particularly bad!
“The conversations now are around America, and whether we take him to Keeneland first or go straight to the Breeders’ Cup. We’ve pretty much decided we’ll avoid the Prix de l’Abbaye.
“The Keeneland run would be a prep, just to get him ready for the Breeders’ Cup. It would be Sean’s first ride in America and Fred’s first run, and with a bell that goes off when you start. It would be a learning curve, and we’d be happy to sacrifice a winning chance to just get him ready for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. The race is on October 7.
“He’s going to need his gate speed in America as they go so quick to the first bend; his early speed will be tested to the limit there, but if he gets there he’s probably not without a chance. Adam thinks he’ll be even better going left-handed.
“The question is how to give the horse the best opportunity to win the Turf Sprint. They are nice conversations to have, and he’s come out of the Nunthorpe exceptionally well. I’ve been to Gulfstream a couple of times while on holiday but never had a runner in the States before. You’re talking little ole’ Steve and Jolene here, not Shadwell or Coolmore!
“It’s humbling to be mentioned in the same breath as legends, people you look up to in the sport.”
De’Lemos is a director and shareholder of a Surrey-based insurance broker. He was quick to point out that pleasure does not always come before business, even where his horses are concerned.
“Work takes priority,” he stresses, before adding: “But trust me, I will be at the Breeders’ Cup!
“We are literally, as our daughter Aimee said on ITV, living the dream. The De’Lemoses are going to America. I can’t believe it! We’ll experience everything it’s got to offer. It’s fantastic – how has it happened to us?”
He continues: “Aimee is a massive part of it, she looks after our Instagram account. Her brother, Rhys, is autistic. He just loves racing and watches it all the time. All his aunties used to call him one handsome dude, and so we named a horse that, after him. He did win a race at Plumpton but unfortunately suffered an injury and we lost him last year.”
On a happier note, Live In The Dream’s exploits seemed to have a ripple effect as the De’Lemoses other horse, Live In The Moment, had gone three years without a win until running at Goodwood the day after the Owner Breeder interview and ended the drought.
At the time of writing, he is also a six-time winner, having undergone a change of scene when moved from West to Alice Haynes in Newmarket before his 2023 campaign. peaking ahead of him putting the record straight, De’Lemos said: “Live In The Moment has been a fabulous horse for us but hasn’t won for three years, which is extraordinary. If someone had said to us three years ago he wouldn’t win for this long, I wouldn’t have believed it. It just goes to show you have got to cherish every win.
“He ran second to Khaadem, who broke the Doncaster track record, in the Scarbrough, ran second at the Ebor meeting, fourth at Meydan – where I had dreamed of having a runner – he’s run some cracking races but just hasn’t got his head in front.
“We moved him to Alice and she’s doing a fabulous job, he seems very happy there. She’s another young up-and-coming trainer, and the sport is in good hands. Frankie Dettori’s retiring but look at these young jockeys coming through, and trainers.
“Alice has shown her ability with some of the horses she’s been given by Amo and owners like that, while Adam has done fabulously with Fred.
“This is only the second Group 1 winner from Epsom in 20-something years, so what an achievement for Adam. I hope it’s a sign of things to come for Epsom – nothing would please me more than to see Epsom start to go places.”