Always Dreaming Wins Kentucky Derby on Sloppy Track

Jerry Lai—X02835
May 6

LEXINGTON, K.Y. — Trainer Todd Pletcher and his go-to jockey, John Velazquez, had each won the
Kentucky Derby. On Saturday, they fulfilled their dream of winning it together.Always Dreaming took command at the top of the stretch and easily held off
long shot Lookin at Lee to become the fifth straight favorite to win the Run for
the Roses at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.”He’s an incredible horse,” Velazquez told NBC Sports after the victory.
“We wanted to get in a position we like to have, in a comfortable position.”At the quarter pole, when he got down and started running, I thought,
‘They’re gonna have to run really hard to get him because he was really
running.'”The race was contested under mostly sunny skies, but the track was labeled
sloppy because of rain on Friday and Saturday morning.Pletcher and Velazquez are horse racing’s leading money winners and
frequently teamed up over the years, but had combined for two Derby wins in 63
starts.”I think this is even more special than the first (Derby win),” Pletcher
told NBC Sports. “There’s been a lot of talk about our Derby record. This one is
all the more sweet.”Forwardly placed from the beginning, Always Dreaming tracked long shot
State of Honor from the rail.On the far turn, Always Dreaming poked his nose in front and then withstood
a challenge from Irish War Cry.”I thought we had a big shot when we turned for home,” Pletcher said. “I
was a little worried down the back side. I thought he wasn’t completely in the
bridle, but I could tell Johnny was riding him confidently.”Always Dreaming opened a clear lead in the stretch and finished the 1 1/4
miles in 2 minutes, 3.59 seconds. He paid $11.40 as the 9-2 favorite.The rail was the place to be on Saturday.Velazquez and Always Dreaming hugged the rail from gate to wire, and Lookin
at Lee, a deep closer, advanced from the back of the pack along the inside to
finish second, beaten by 2 3/4 lengths.It was another five lengths back to Battle of Midway, who followed Always
Dreaming around the track on the inside and held on for third.None of the other come-from-behind horses challenged the top three.The second- and third-place finishes of Lookin at Lee (33-1) and Battle of
Midway (40-1) keyed some monster payouts.The $2 exacta paid $336.20, the $1 trifecta was worth more than $8,000, and
a $1 superfecta bet, which included fourth-place Classic Empire, returned
$75,974.50.Classic Empire, last year’s champion 2-year-old and the morning-line Derby
favorite, was jostled leaving the gate. He raced in the middle of the pack down
the backstretch and was forced to run wide around the final turn. He rallied for
fourth, but was beaten almost nine lengths.The buzz around Always Dreaming began April 1 after his runaway win in the
Florida Derby, but he entered 2017 winless. He got his first win on Jan. 25, the
latest first victory for a Derby winner since 1933.Pletcher tied his mentor, D. Wayne Lukas, with his 48th Derby starter (he
had three on Saturday). Pletcher won the race in 2010 with Super Saver.
Velazquez won it a year later aboard Animal Kingdom.”We’ve run a lot of horses in (the Derby), and some haven’t run so well,”
Pletcher said when asked about his record in the Run for the Roses. “But now you
look at it, and I think out of 17 years we have two wins, two seconds and three
thirds. It’s become a little more respectable now.”Dubai invader Thunder Snow was pulled up shortly after the start, but
appeared to be OK after the race, according to NBC Sports.Despite the inclement weather, the announced crowd at Churchill Downs was
158,070. The Derby attendance record of 170,513 was set in 2015 when American
Pharoah began his march to the Triple Crown.Eyes will now shift to Baltimore for the Triple Crown’s second jewel in two
weeks. Can Pletcher, Velazquez and their horse keep their own dreams alive?”On to the Preakness,” said Vincent Viola, who, with five partners, owns
Always Dreaming.NOTES: Bob Baffert was on the sideline for this year’s Run for the Roses.
The Hall-of-Fame trainer, who has won the Derby four times, including in 2015
with Triple Crown champion American Pharoah, lost his 3-year-old star Mastery to
an injury. But Baffert’s 3-year-old filly Abel Tasman scored a 9-1 upset in
Friday’s Kentucky Oaks. … The Oaks, which was run over a sloppy track after
Friday’s deluge in Louisville, had Derby day fans looking skyward. Saturday
morning was cold and wet at Churchill Downs, but the skies cleared in the
afternoon. … When Patch was loaded into stall No. 20 for the race, he saw
thousands of fans packing the grandstands, but none of his four-legged
competitors. Patch has no left eye. “I mean, you can’t help but root for him. I
mean, he’s overcome a lot,” trainer Todd Pletcher told NBC. Bettors agreed:
Patch, who was 30-1 on the morning line, was bet down to 13-1 at post time.