Published: Sun, May 07, 2017
Sports | By Phillip Butler

Co-favorite Always Dreaming wins Kentucky Derby

Co-favorite Always Dreaming wins Kentucky Derby

Always Dreaming turned back 19 horses Saturday, while taming intrigue and the soggy Churchill Downs surface, to join the growing list of the most popular post-time winners.

Forwardly placed from the beginning, Always Dreaming tracked 54-1 shot Battle of Midway from the rail.

Always Dreaming, given a picture-perfect ride by his Hall of Fame jockey, sat second just off early pace-setter State of Honor during the long run down the backstretch. Battle of Midway, at 40-1, paid $20.80.

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. Altogether, he's had 48 runners, tying mentor D. Wayne Lukas for the most in Derby history. "We wanted to get in a position we like to have, in a comfortable position".

Irish War Cry, who like Always Dreaming was sent off at odds of 9-2, couldn't handle the sloppy going and ended 10th.

Bonomo's wife, MaryEllen, offered up Always Dreaming's name because of her proclivity for thinking big.

This year, Classic Empire and his jockey, Julien Leparoux, 33, were the 4-1 favorites to win the race, but there was still a chance that Always Dreaming with jockey John Velazquez, 45, or McCracken with Brian Hernandez Jr.

Pletcher also trains Tapwrit and Patch. "It's special to win one with Todd".

Trainer Keith Desormeaux (Sonneteer) trained 2016 Preakness victor Exaggerator, who finished second in the Derby. Yet Pletcher's frustrations in the sport's most high-profile race were well-documented.

The son of 2012 Arkansas Derby victor Bodemeister arrived in Louisville after a big victory in the Florida Derby and timed workouts that hearkened back to the most recent big horses - American Pharoah and California Chrome.

"It means a lot, we've had so much success in the past but we haven't won the Derby", Velazquez said. I felt like I was in the one hole. "Finally we got together with this horse".

The race spotlight, though, belonged to a Brooklyn-based dream of boyhood friends Vinny Viola and Anthony Bonomo. The problem was coming up with a plan to get the colt to peak at just the right time.

Less angry were those who bet on Always Dreaming. Espinoza has won the Triple Crown.

When it was time for the race to start, eyes were glued to the various screens around the Downs.

American Pharoah's trainer, Bob Baffert, who did not have a horse in the race, said he would be watching from his "Grade I couch" in California, a day after he won the premier race for 3-year-old fillies, the Kentucky Oaks, with Abel Tasman. Despite chasing a quick early pace, Always Dreaming was still full of run. And after the dazzling work the following Friday, Pletcher was concerned the colt still wanted to go.

►Make it easy to keep up to date with more stories like this. Always Dreaming was flawless in the post-parade and brilliant in the race.

Jose Ortiz was aboard for his second stakes win of the day.

"I'm not sure we would have been able to do it without it", said Pletcher.

The Todd Pletcher-trained Florida Derby victor was never threatened on his way to a comfortable victory in 2:03.59.

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