Favorite Always Dreaming won the 143rd Kentucky Derby in front-running style on Saturday, giving trainer Todd Pletcher his second victory in America's greatest horse race.
The win gave trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez their second victories in the race but their first together.
Lookin At Lee finished second ($26.60) from the first post, ahead of Battle of Midway in third (20.80).
Classic Empire was the original choice coming off a win in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, but he delivered a clunker in his first race of the year and then missed five weeks of training because he was injured, refused to train or both.
Always Dreaming will have to defeat enormous odds in the next couple of races to snatch the coveted Triple Crown. He completed the 1 1/4 miles in 2 minutes, 3.59 seconds over a sloppy track and returned $11.40 on a $2 bet to win. Velazquez had won his only one on now Australian based sire Animal Kingdom.
When Always Dreaming unloaded at Churchill, Pletcher felt the dark bay colt was too wound up too soon.
Going into his 17th Derby, Pletcher saddled the post-time favorite for the first time.
The victor ran the mile and a quarter on what was labeled a wet, fast track but was muddy for much of the day, in 2 minutes, 3.59 seconds. "We wanted to get in a position we like to have, in a comfortable position".
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"I thought we had a big shot when we turned for home", Pletcher said.
"We've run a lot of horses in it, and some of them may not have run so well", said Pletcher.
"We also felt he was setting on go nearly to the point our main focus was just trying to deliver it at 6:45 on Saturday and not 6:45 on Thursday morning", Pletcher said.
Purchased in September 2015 at Keeneland in Kentucky for $350,000 - Bonomo joked that his son, Anthony Jr., "overspent", but that he no longer believes so - Always Dreaming had done all of this after his hiatus last summer and fall after Pletcher took him on last early September.
Always Dreaming was always in front rank along with State Of Honor, Battle Of Midway and Irish War Cry and the victor hit the front just before the turn for home.
Three races are in the books leading up to the Kentucky Derby, where cold and wet weather has forced spectators to bundle up and use colorful hats for function rather than fashion at Churchill Downs. The Battle of Midway finished third.
NOTES: Bob Baffert was on the sideline for this year's Run for the Roses.
Forwardly placed from the start, Always Dreaming executed a dream scenario, stalking early leader State of Honor, who set a quick but not ridiculous pace, going:46.53 for the half-mile. "With all the success we've had in the past, winning important races, missing this one is definitely a big one".
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