Always Dreaming, who went off at 4.70-to-1, became the fifth straight betting favorite to win the Kentucky Derby.
Always Dreaming, who didn't break his maiden until January 25 but showed his talent in Florida this spring with a series of stunning performances, delivered a powerful victory in the 143rd Kentucky Derby on Saturday, splashing through the Churchill Downs stretch 2 3/4 lengths in front of 33-to-1 longshot Lookin At Lee.
Pletcher had to make adjustments with the workouts leading up to the Derby as Always Dreaming refused to relax. The most recent Triple Crown victor, American Pharaoh, won all three races in 2015, becoming the first horse to do so since 1978.
The win raised Always Dreaming's record to four for six with a second and a third, both in first two maiden races under trainer Dominick Schettino.
Vinny Viola, one of the partners in Kentucky Derby champion Always Dreaming, talks about the colt with reporters outside Barn 40 Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., Sunday, May 7, 2017.
Between them, he and Velazquez were two-for-63 in the fabled race that kicks off the coveted treble completed by the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.
"It's been a insane road, but we're right where we want to be", trainer Mark Casse said.
State of Honor, the longshot Ontario-bred, set a fast opening quarter of 22:70, with Always Dreaming tracking him and putting him away on the backstretch.
He faced no drama the rest of the way, keeping his lead, adding three-quarters of a length to it by the finish and besting a couple of long shots, second-place Lookin At Lee and third-place Battle Of Midway, with the once-favored Classic Empire in fourth. He got into the bridle handsome in the backstretch.
Velazquez, a 45-year-old native of Puerto Rico and a 2012 Racing Hall of Fame inductee, put his horse in the best possible position out of the gate, made his move early in the turn to home and ended up with a bed of roses in the winner's circle. "We just knew when we got together something special was going to happen", said Bonomo in the post race interview.
"I was a little anxious on the back side".
"But I could tell Johnny was riding him confidently".
Pletcher also noticed Irish War Cry's jockey Rajiv Maragh peek under his shoulder as they headed into the stretch "like he thought he had a lot of horse".
But this year's reigning 2-year-old champion, Arkansas Derby victor Classic Empire, went from morning-line favorite at 4-1 to a 7-1 shot at post time and seemed to garner no respect.
Meanwhile, it was a stunning anti-climax for Thunder Snow, a son of Helmet, who was running for Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor. Just before the top of the stretch, I saw Rajiv [Maragh] on Irish War Cry take a look around his shoulder like he had a lot of horse.
UAE Derby victor Thunder Snow bucked out of the starting gate and was immediately pulled up in the opening moments of the race. I figure if the horse can't take itself seriously then why should I?