Always Dreaming Wins The Kentucky Derby

Ebony Scott
May 17, 2017

Always Dreaming splashed through the mud for a 2-3/4-length victory at Churchill downs on Saturday (Sunday AEST), giving Todd Pletcher and rider John Velazquez their second victories in the race but first together.

Further, he had given a second Derby win among 48 starters to Pletcher, the career victor of 4,300 races, 1,000 stakes and $336 million, $60 million more than any other trainer, who yet found validation with this second win, following on Super Saver in 2010.

The sun was shining on the wet dirt deck in stunning conditions, the fifth "sloppy" track for a Derby in 13 years - with both of Pletcher's Derby wins having come on rain-affected tracks. Beyond that, there came a first Derby win with a first Derby horse for the ownership team of Anthony Bonomo and Vinnie Viola, childhood friends from Brooklyn.

Looks aren't always everything, but being a handsome boy never hurt anybody - except for maybe Thunder Snow (too soon?) who had trouble performing right out the gate and couldn't finish the race.

With great focus, he broke Always Dreaming second out of the No. 5 post and sat just outside early pace-setter State of Honor, who went out really fast, posting an opening quarter of 22.89 for the 1¼-mile race. "I don't think going to Belmont for just a week and then moving again is an advantage", Pletcher said. We wanted to make sure we got out well and got a position we'd like to have and be comfortable.

While Always Dreaming will face a host of new challengers at the Preakness, conventional wisdom holds that if these three-year-olds were championship-caliber, they would have run for the roses. Looking at Lee paid $26.60 and $15.20, with Battle of Midway returning $20.80. "The second I had to ask him to straighten up and once I got under the wire for the first time, I was happy where I was". He got into the bridle attractive in the backstretch. Pletcher admitted to tears under his sunglasses and said the victory was "very special". "I was a little anxious about the backside". We felt coming in we had a good chance and we had some anxious moments during the week.

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Pletcher also noticed Irish War Cry's jockey Rajiv Maragh peek under his shoulder as they headed into the stretch "like he thought he had a lot of horse". "It felt like I really needed that second one".

Finally, the whole narrative swung back to the beginning, with Classic Empire - his mental and physical woes seemingly behind him - starting as the morning-line favorite.

Thunder Snow, the Dubai-based entry, didn't finish. Classic Empire was hampered badly at the start when Irish War Cry veered in sharply to collide with McCraken, who in turn bumped Classic Empire.

Godolphin's Thunder Snow took no part after bucking at the start.

The first step toward achieving that comes May 20 in the Preakness at Pimlico Race Course in Maryland.

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