Always Dreaming won the 143rd Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs over a sloppy track in Louisville on Saturday, giving jockey John Velazquez and trainer Todd Pletcher their second career wins in the "Run for the Roses".
Lookin At Lee, jockeyed by Corey Lanerie, made a late push and finished second after he came into the race with 33-1 odds.
The presumed favorite, reigning juvenile champion, Classic Empire, slipped to 7-1 in the betting odds over worries about how the quirky colt would handle the Derby's circus atmosphere.
The strong wagering figures on the Derby were due in part to a wide-open, 20-horse field that led bettors to stretch their bankrolls in the hopes of catching a large payout in the exotic pools. Trained by Mark Casse, the Arkansas Derby victor finished fourth, a length behind Battle of Midway. "McCraken came and almost knocked us", said Canadian-based Mark Casse, who trains Classic Empire. In the long history of horse racing - the Derby is America's "oldest continuously held sporting event" - only 12 horses have been able to pull off the feat.
The fourth- and fifth-place finishers were Classic Empire and Practical Joke, respectively.
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"We're just here having some fun, watching some horses, and winning some money actually", Caleb Farrabi said. The track is impossible. "I thought a couple of times he wasn't completely in the bridle, but you could tell from how he was running confidently".
Thunder Snow bucked wildly just after the start of the Kentucky Derby and did not finish the race, but all signs point to the colt being uninjured. His position in the starting gate aside, Irish War Cry was impressive earlier this season with wins in the Holy Bull and Wood Memorial races. His confidence was rewarded with a spectacular performance by Always Dreaming under Velazquez.
Officials said attendance for the Derby was 158,070. A post-race examination found no injury. "Thunder Snow was allowed to walk back to the barn and he did so comfortably". 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. State Of Honor kept the lead until midway down the backstretch when Always Dreaming, who had been exclusively on the rail, moved outside him and took the lead and returned to the rail.
"The most important thing is to bring the best horse to the Derby and we did it this year", said Pletcher, who as acknowledged that a majority of his Derby starters were not suited to the rigors of 11⁄4 miles.
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.