Mud in your eye: Always Dreaming wins Kentucky Derby in slop

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Always Dreaming splashed through the slop to win the Kentucky Derby by 2 3/4 lengths on Saturday, giving trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez their second victories in the race but their first together.

Irish War Cry, the co-favorite with Always Dreaming at 9-2 at post time, and McCraken, No. 3 in the betting, were in position to make a run at the leader. But Always Dreaming was followed by Lookin at Lee at 33-1 and Battle of Midway at 40-1, with the third choice, Classic Empire, filling out the $75,974 superfecta.

It is the fifth consecutive year the favorite has won the Kentucky Derby.

Tom Durkin stood on the horse path leading to the Churchill Downs racetrack to watch last night's 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby on the world's largest high-definition video screen across the track in front of him.

The second race in the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes, is scheduled for May 20.

The win caps off quite a run for Always Dreaming. Velazquez won it a year later aboard Animal Kingdom.

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The race spotlight, though, belonged to a Brooklyn-based dream of boyhood friends Vinny Viola and Anthony Bonomo. It appears bettors have the 1A-or-1B mindset, with Always Dreaming listed at +450.

"It's becoming a little more respectable now", said Pletcher, whose 48 starters tied D. Wayne Lukas for the most in Derby history. At the eighth pole, the only horse running at the leader was Lookin At Lee, who finished a fast-closing fourth to Classic Empire in the Arkansas Derby. "It's very special. I thought we had a big shot when we were turning for home".

Speaking to reporters after Saturday's race, Velazquez did not hold back with his praise of how great he believes Always Dreaming is.

"So we were going someplace to watch the derby, and I said I'm going to fix me a hat", Nancy McBride said.

Trainer Steve Asmussen (Hence, Untrapped, Lookin at Lee) entered with zero victories in 15 Derby starts - most all-time without a victory.

NOTES: Bob Baffert was on the sideline for this year's Run for the Roses. Some of the Derby field will no doubt join him at Pimlico in Baltimore, but others will have seen enough and look for softer spots. I was a little anxious down the back side, but I could tell Johnny was riding him confidently. "I don't think I'm any better trainer than I was an hour ago, but I felt like another one would solidify it". It was another head back to the Irish War Cry, who appeared to be making a determined run and gaining on the outside. That hurdle cleared, Pletcher mapped out a cautious plan that had Always Dreaming skip the Fountain of Youth, a traditional prep for the Florida Derby, in favor of an allowance race on the same day at Gulfstream Park.

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