Together, they harnessed their collective talents to win the Kentucky Derby.
Long since regarded as one of the most powerful combinations in American racing, Pletcher and Velazquez have teamed up for a multitude of big-race triumphs over the years.
“It’s not what we normally do, but the way this horse’s energy level was coming into the race and the way he appears to have come out of it, I think I’m as comfortable as I can be with it”, Pletcher said.
Further, a digital Longines Kentucky Derby Countdown Clock was revealed on Churchill Downs’ official event website (www.KentuckyDerby.com) to observe this historic race.
“A heartfelt thanks from all of us at Churchill Downs to all of the fans of the Kentucky Derby around the world who once again made this an fantastic spectacle rain or shine”, said Bill Carstanjen, CEO of Churchill Downs Incorporated (“CDI”).
Always Dreaming headed to his post as the 9-2 favorite ahead of the likes of Irish War Cry, McCraken and Classic Empire.
Lookin at Lee, a 33-1 longshot, was second, 2 3/4 lengths back, in the first leg of USA thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown series for three-year-olds. The victor covered 1 ¼ miles over a sloppy track in 2:03:59 to win for the fourth time in six career starts.
“Physically, he’s fine. So as long as (his eye) continues to get better, we plan on being at Pimlico”.
“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. This was the spot where the wise guys expected his record to slip to 1-for-48 because (as usual) Pletcher had three horses in the race.
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.
Saturday, on an off track at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., veteran rider John Velazquez was the difference in the Kentucky Derby.
Though Always Dreaming pressed longshot State of Honor through a very fast half mile of 46.53 seconds, he was moving easily. “McCraken came and almost knocked us”, Classic Empire’s trainer Mark Casse said. The track is impossible.
Already well connected in the business world, Anthony Bonomo hooked up with trainer Todd Pletcher to prepare an entry for the Kentucky Derby.
Always Dreaming has now run in two stakes races and won both.
“Out of the gate, we didn’t have any trouble”, Velazquez said.
“I wanted to make sure we got out of there running and get the position we want to have”, Velazquez said. “He got to relax and then waited to the quarter pole and he responded right away”.
Pletcher had his hands full in the days leading up to the Derby when the colt’s behaviour was less than a dream. “It was a really good trip, the kind I dream of and pray for”, said Lanerie.
He channeled his aggression into a determined effort on a track turned into goo by on and off rain before the race.
Many say the reason is the point system for qualifying, which has replaced the old system of stakes-money earned, for eliminating horses that don’t belong in the field. Bodemeister finished second in the 2012 race.
The victory was worth $1,635,800.
In the ownership of Always Dreaming is billionaire Vinnie Viola, who also owns the Florida Panthers in the National Hockey League, and was set to become US President Donald Trump’s army secretary before withdrawing as a candidate in February.
“There’s no feeling like this”, Vincent Viola said. The win is the second for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Thunder Snow did not finish the race. In his first start for Pletcher and Velazquez, the colt broke his maiden at Tampa Bay Downs by 11-1/2 lengths. “He was examined by Dr. Jennifer Kaak and was found to have no injuries and walked back to his barn under his own power”. And so the other horse, obviously, showed some speed.
“I named the horse because I’m always daydreaming or dreaming about something”.
Going into his 17th Derby, Pletcher saddled the post-time favorite for the first time. Battle of Midway finished third as a 40-1 chance, creating a $4,659.21 triactor payoff on a minimum 60-cent bet.
The fourth- and fifth-place finishers were Classic Empire and Practical Joke, respectively.
Wood Memorial victor Irish Cry, who was actually second in the wagering at $4.80-to-1, hung with the leaders early for trainer Graham Motion, then faded to 10th in the full field of 20 horses.
Godolphin’s Kentucky Derby was over nearly as soon as it started as UAE Derby victor bucked dramatically in the first 50 yards and was pulled up passing the stands.