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LOUISVILLE, KY – Always Dreaming shook clear at the 1/2-mile pole, opened a daylight advantage, and cruised to a 2 3/4-length victory to win the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby.
Trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by John Velazquez, Always Dreaming covered the 1 1/4 miles on a wet-fast track in 2:03.59 before a crowd of 158,070, the seventh-largest in race history.
“I knew we had a big shot with this horse and I was hoping it would happen,” Pletcher said. “The trip unfolded not exactly the way we had planned. We knew for sure we didn’t want to be behind a wall of horses and that turned out OK. Johnny, of course, rode him great. This is so special, to win this race with Johnny. We’ve been together for all these years and this is sweet.”
For Pletcher and Velazquez, it was their second taste of Kentucky Derby glory. Pletcher saddled 2010 winner Super Saver, while a year later, Velazquez piloted Animal Kingdom to victory.
“This is the best horse Todd and I have ever come to the Kentucky Derby with,” Velazquez said. “Nothing against all the others, but this was the best horse. I got a good position with him early, and then he relaxed. When we hit the quarter pole, I asked him and he responded. He did it himself from there.”
Off as the betting favorite, Always Dreaming’s victory was worth $1,635,800. Saturday’s payday increased his earnings to $2,284,700 with a record of 6-4-1-1, including two Grade 1 victories in as many attempts. In his previous start, the Kentucky-bred son of Bodemeister out of the In Excess mare Above Perfection won the Florida Derby.
State of Honor led the field of 20 through an opening 1/4-mile in :22.70 and the 1/2-mile in :46.53 with Always Dreaming right behind him. Always Dreaming stuck his head in front at the 1/2-mile pole and was a 1/2-length in front of Irish War Cry and Battle of Midway at the head of the stretch.
By mid-stretch, Always Dreaming had opened a three-length lead and was well on his way to becoming the fifth consecutive favorite to win the Kentucky Derby.
Lookin At Lee rallied from far back under Corey Lanerie to claim second, five lengths in front of Battle of Midway.
“My horse ran great,” Lanerie said. “I’m caught with seconditis – second in the Preakness and now second in the Derby. I’m still very happy.”
Following the top three in order were Classic Empire, Practical Joke, Tapwrit, Gunnevera, McCraken, Gormley, Irish War Cry, Hence, Untrapped, Girvin, Patch, J Boys Echo, Sonneteer, Fast and Accurate, Irap, and State of Honor.
Thunder Snow did not finish. He began bucking furiously only a few steps out of the gate. While his antics had some worrying that he was injured, Thunder Snow returned to the paddock without any assistance.
“Thunder Snow galloped back to the paddock comfortably under his own power,” said the on-call veterinarian, Dr. Keith Latson. “He was examined by Dr. Jennifer Kaak and was found to have no injuries and walked back to his barn under his own power.”
Always Dreaming returned $11.40, $7.20, and $5.80. Lookin At Lee brought back $26.60 and $15.20, while Battle of Midway paid $20.80 to show.
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Trainer Todd Pletcher, Always Dreaming, Tapwrit, and Patch – “I’m sorry, I don’t have a clue about my other two horses. I was so intense following Always Dreaming up front that I never did get a chance to pick them up.”
Trainer Steve Asmussen, Lookin At Lee, Hence, and Untrapped –“I’m definitely proud of Lee. He just keeps coming. Drawing the one was tough. He’s the first horse in 20 years to run in the top three from the one hole. A lot of credit goes to Corey for navigating a very good course from there. To me, the Kentucky Derby, everything about it is a thrill. I’m just proud of the effort of Lookin At Lee and the whole team. Hats off to the winner. He ran an incredible race. With Untrapped, Ricardo found a really good spot with him. It just ran away from him in the middle. Hence didn’t run into the mud hitting him.”
Jockey Flavien Prat, Battle of Midway – “We got a good trip. He broke well from the track, took me right there. He ran a huge race. He gave me everything he had.”
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, Battle of Midway – “I thought our horse gave a nice effort. We had a good position coming into the lane but Todd’s horse was too good.”
Jockey Julien Leparoux, Classic Empire – “We got bumped around really hard at the start, which put us in a very tough position early. He really only had one race before this, but we’ll get them next time.”
Trainer Mark Casse, Classic Empire and State of Honor – “We got wiped out at the start. That’s the problem with the auxiliary gate. McCraken came and nearly knocked us. Classic Empire really got clobbered. The track is impossible. Our horse ran extremely well, considering. State of Honor didn’t like the track. I should have told Jose to go right to the rail because the track has been so speed favoring, especially on the rail.”
Jockey Joel Rosario, Practical Joke – “Going into the final turn, I thought we were in a great spot, but turning for home, my horse just stayed in the same spot.”
Trainer Chad Brown, Practical Joke – “We got a beautiful trip from the 19 hole. I thought Joel did as well as he could. My horse really got a dream trip, I thought. He even got to the inside, where it appeared the track had been better the last two days. He cut the corner and he just couldn’t sustain his run. I thought he handled the conditions well, and so did Joel. Can’t blame the track. I think today he showed he just has a limit to how far he can run. He’s a fine racehorse, he’s a Grade 1 racehorse. He just can’t go this classic distance. I’ll talk to the owners, we’ll give him a little bit of a breather, and we’ll focus on races a little bit shorter than this.”
Jockey Jose Ortiz, Tapwrit – “In the beginning, the 17 hole (Irish War Cry) came over on me. I got in good position behind Classic Empire, but he didn’t respond today.”
Jockey Javier Castellano, Gunnevera – “I didn’t think he handled the (sloppy) track at all. In the beginning, he was holding it together, but when asked him for speed and to pick it up, he struggled quite a bit. It was disappointing.”
Trainer Antonio Sano, Gunnevera – “He came back very well. We have no excuse.”
Jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr., McCraken – “We got knocked around a little bit leaving there, but from that point on, we had a pretty uneventful trip. Turning for home, we just weren’t on the best horse today.”
Trainer Ian Wilkes, McCraken – “I got a great ride. He got knocked around a bit leaving there, but that’s the Derby. I thought he got him in a good rhythm, got him in a good position. He made his move and I got a little excited, but he didn’t finish it off. The winner was too good.”
Jockey Victor Espinoza, Gormley – “I had a great trip, but not enough horse. He never really picked up the bridle.”
Trainer John Shirreffs, Gormley – “Gormley came back fine. I’d really prefer not to comment on his race until I have a chance to watch the replay.”
Jockey Rajiv Maragh, Irish War Cry – “My trip was ideal, what I was hoping for. He broke well out of the gate and got a good position. He relaxed beautifully off the pace. Going into the turn, I seemingly had a lot of horse. I was ready to engage the five horse (Always Dreaming), he just kind of quit running on me.”
Trainer Graham Motion, Irish War Cry – “Rajiv said he was cruising at the top of the stretch. He said he kind of went from having a lot of horse to not having a lot of horse in three strides. Could it be the mile and a 1/4? Maybe, but I think it’s too early to say. He just didn’t finish up. Rajiv thought he was really traveling at the top of the stretch.”
Jockey Florent Geroux, Hence – “I just couldn’t keep up. I was trying to follow Lookin At Lee, but I could never catch up.”
Jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr., Untrapped – “It’s a tough trip, but it’s the Derby. I wish we could’ve gotten a better trip.”
Jockey Mike Smith, Girvin – “He felt OK, but he was struggling with the racetrack early on. He was getting knocked around so many times and the poor guy just never had a shot inside. I felt like I was in the one hole. I finally get him running at the 3/8 pole and someone wiped out four of us again. The shot was over then.”
Trainer Joe Sharp, Girvin – “Mike (Smith) came back and said he belongs with this bunch. He hated the track, but still tried to make a run and then we got wiped out on the turn. Mike said I should run him back in the Preakness or the Belmont.”
Jockey Tyler Gaffalione, Patch – “We had a good trip. We came into the stretch and got behind a couple of tiring horses, but he came back well and move on to the next race.”
Jockey Luis Saez, J Boys Echo – “Everybody came from the outside and killed us. I tried to rush him and see what we got, but by the 1/2-mile, everybody’s gone.”
Trainer Dale Romans, J Boys Echo – “He just had an awfully rough trip. I came back to the barn to check on him and he seems to be walking fine.”
Jockey Kent Desormeaux, Sonneteer – “I had no horse. I had no horse, never had a chance.”
Trainer Keith Desormeaux, Sonneteer – “He obviously didn’t like the track because Kent (Desormeaux) was having to ride him the whole way. He usually takes a hold and relaxes, but today, Kent had to ask him, and that tells me he didn’t like the track. That simple.”
Jockey Channing Hill, Fast and Accurate – “He ran good and he ran his race. We wanted to make the lead, but we weren’t fast enough. I thought I had a shot early on but not able to quicken him.”
Trainer Mike Maker, Fast and Accurate – “All is well. Not good enough.”
Jockey Mario Gutierrez, Irap – “I was in a great spot going around the turn and on the backstretch. I was following the speed and my horse was moving well. Once I asked him to respond, he flattened out.”
Trainer Doug O’Neill, Irap – “Disappointing. Mario (Gutierrez) said he didn’t handle the track at all. We’ll have to talk to Mr. (Paul) Reddam, but I don’t think it is likely we will go on to Maryland.”
Jockey Jose Lezcano, State of Honor – “I think my horse didn’t like the sloppy track. He broke good, I put him in a good position and let him go a little early. He stopped early, but I think (on a fast track) he can go longer.”
Jockey Christophe Soumillon, Thunder Snow – “I don’t know what happened at the start.”
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