THERE’S no denying that Todd Pletcher is a champion trainer and he worked his magic again on Sunday morning when Always Dreaming scored a memorable Kentucky Derby win.
The 143rd edition of the Run to the Roses was run on sloppy conditions at Churchill Downs and it was the race favourite Always Dreaming which reveled in the conditions, giving both trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez their second Derby win.
Pletcher won in 2010 with Super Saver and Velazquez a year later with Animal Kingdom. For Pletcher, it was a big relief and a huge thrill to win another Kentucky Derby.
“I think it’s even more special than the first one. A lot of talk about our Derby record, we were hoping for another win in this one, it’s all the more sweet,” Pletcher said.
“It’s very special.”
Pletcher had a few nervous moments throughout the race when he thought his colt wasn’t handled the conditions, but it soon picked up well for Velazquez in the home stretch.
“I thought we had a big shot when we turned for home. I was a little worried down the back side, I thought a couple of times he wasn’t completely in the bridle,” Pletcher said.
“But I could tell Johnny was riding him confidently. 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.
Always Dreaming wins the 143rd Kentucky Derby!! pic.twitter.com/6L14DBKK15
— Kentucky Derby (@KentuckyDerby) May 6, 2017
“When he cut the corner, I could see Johnny picked him (Always Dreaming) up and you could tell he was finishing then.”
Velazquez rode to plan and wanted to land on the speed. After trailing behind State Of Honour throughout most of the race, Always Dreaming fought off the late challenge by Lookin At Lee.
“It means a lot. We’ve had so much success in the past, yet we hadn’t won a Derby but finally we do it together with this horse,” Velazquez said.
“He’s an incredible horse, obviously a very young horse, with not a lot of experience, and to come here today and the way he did it was very impressive.
“Todd and I talked about (tactics) a lot, he said make sure we come out running, we want a position we’d like to have and be comfortable.
“Once he got into a comfortable position on the turn, when the other horse (State of Honor) went to the outside, and he (Always Dreaming) got into the bridle really beautiful down the back stretch.
“From then on, I was just sitting there until the quarter-pole when I asked him to run.”
It sets up an exciting Belmont Stakes for connections who will be endeavouring to replicate the Triple Crown efforts of American Pharoah.