Always Dreaming gave trainer Todd Pletcher just his second Kentucky Derby (G1) victory on Saturday when drawing off in the lane of the 143rd edition of the Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs.
There was some drama at the start when Thunder Snow exited the gate bucking and rearing in the very rear of the field. Jockey Christophe Soumillon was nearly unseated, but managed to stay aboard and pull the U.A.E. Derby (UAE-G2) winner up and Thunder Snow walked off the track.
All the histrionics had no bearing whatsoever on Always Dreaming, whom jockey John Velazquez settled into a tracking spot just outside of early pacesetter State of Honor through splits of :22.70 and :46.53. The dark bay didn’t stay in that spot for long, ranging up to take command through six furlongs in 1:11.12.
State of Honor faded nearing the turn but Always Dreaming kept right on motoring around the bend and into the lane. A number of rivals loomed large to challenge the Bodemeister colt, but Always Dreaming drew off by three lengths in the stretch before finally crossing under the wire in a final time of 2:03.59 for 1 1/4 miles over the wet-fast, sealed track.
It was 2 3/4 lengths behind Always Dreaming to Lookin at Lee, who closed well to be best-of-the-rest at 33-1. Battle of Midway followed another five lengths behind to round out the top three under the wire at 40-1.
Champion Classic Empire followed in fourth by a length while Practical Joke, Tapwrit, Gunnevera, McCraken, Gormley, Irish War Cry, Hence, Untrapped, Girvin, Patch, J Boys Echo, Sonneteer, Fast and Accurate, Irap and State of Honor completed the order of finish.
Sent off the 9-2 favorite, Always Dreaming paid $11.40 for the win. He also completed the Oaks/Derby Double with Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Abel Tasman that was worth $146.
Always Dreaming began his career with trainer Dominick Schettino in New York last year, finishing third in his debut at Belmont Park on July 1 and just missing by a neck in a Saratoga maiden on August 20. He showed up in Pletcher’s shed row for his sophomore debut on January 25 at Tampa Bay Downs, romping by 11 lengths in that mile-and-40-yard maiden special weight.
The Kentucky-bred followed up with a four-length wire job against allowance/optional claiming foes at Gulfstream Park on March 4 and then showed up to make his stakes debut in the Florida Derby (G1) on April 1. The dark bay colt dominated that contest, pulling away to be five lengths clear on the wire.
Always Dreaming is now 6-4-1-1 in his short career with $2,284,700 in lifetime earnings. Bred by Santa Rosa Partners, he is campaigned by MeB Racing Stables, Brooklyn Boyz Stables, Teresa Viola Racing Stables, St. Elias Stable, Siena Farm and West Point Thoroughbreds.
The dark bay colt is out of the Grade 3-winning In Excess mare Above Perfection, making him a half-brother to Grade 1 heroine Hot Dixie Chick.