A trainer and jockey accustomed to success.
"We just won the Kentucky Derby".
Long since regarded as one of the most powerful combinations in American racing, Pletcher and Velazquez have teamed up for a multitude of big-race triumphs over the years.
Churchill Downs officials say attendance for the Kentucky Derby is 158,070.
As might be expected from two successful guys from the neighborhood, he and Viola reveled in Always Dreaming's win together.
OddsShark had Florida Derby champ Always Dreaming as the betting favorite to win the 143rd Kentucky Derby, but admitted the wagers were "tepid". This is the second year in a row that Churchill has run 14 races on Derby Day, after expanding the card by one race last year.
"This is the best horse Todd and I have ever come to the Kentucky Derby with", Velazquez said from Louisville. "We've been 24 years together, something like that, and for him to still trust in me and give me an opportunity, it doesn't happen often in this business".
Always Dreaming won by 2 3/4 lengths.
The previous two Derbies were won by 2-year-old champions: Nyquist last year and Triple Crown victor American Pharoah the year before. His first came in 2010 with Super Saver. "There's been a lot of talk about our Derby record".
"I'm not sure we would have been able to do it without it", said Pletcher.
"My health is good and I feel like I'm in the middle of this career", the 51-year-old Asmussen said.
"I think the fact that he was so headstrong when he got here that I don't think staying here for another week is going to be an advantage, "Pletcher said". The track is impossible. He was bred in Kentucky and is owned by a syndicate.
Otherwise, it was a cleanly run race up front, with Always Dreaming easily putting away State of Honor before drawing clear.
"It does mean a lot", said Velazquez, 45. I got a good position with him early and then he relaxed. The second step I had to ask him to break. "He did it himself from there".
He was fractious in the morning, refusing to relax. "I think it's still sinking in". Always Dreaming is a gorgeous chestnut shade of brown with a black tale and mane.
The almost black son of Bodemeister from the Excess stallion Above Perfection was installed as the 9 to 2 betting favorite and rewarded his backers with the win against 19 rivals on a track that had absorbed 2-1/2 days of rain and was truly rated "sloppy".
Pletcher added, "I think it's even more special than the first one".
Yes it's engaging and engrossing and many a great story emerges from it - but the stage is a bit of a mess at times.
He won that race by 11 lengths, followed that with a 4-length victory in an optional claiming race - although the $350,000 yearling purchase was not eligible to be claimed - and then went into the Florida Derby, which he won by 5 lengths.
All week the "experts" had called this an open race, and it was, for second and third.
The victory was worth $1,635,800.
Viola and childhood pal Anthony Bonomo are the owners of "Brooklyn Boyz," Always Dreaming's stable.
Classic Empire, the morning line favorite, got up for fourth despite getting nearly wiped out when the gates opened.
NBC reported a few minutes after the race that a preliminary examination of Thunder Snow showed nothing out of the ordinary. "He was examined and was found to have no injuries and walked back to his barn under his own power". There were questions in the morning about whether Always Dreaming was going to relax, but Velazquez was happy with how he responded and settled on the outside. After that, the prize fell to McCraken, who couldn't get past 31-1 shot Irap in the Blue Grass Stakes.
That allowed some generous-priced horses to hit the ticket.
That's because the runner-up Looking At Lee, went off at 33-1 odds.
Battle of Midway finished third in the 20-horse field.
YFH's top choice, Classic Empire, ran fourth. And whoever had those four, plus 25-1 hope Practical Joke in the fifth spot, bought mint juleps for everyone with a $493,348.70 payoff.
While Always Dreaming was running away with the Kentucky Derby, Thunder Snow, a supplementary nominee, was bucking and trying to wheel shortly after the start at Churchill.
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