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Always Dreaming? No, he's not

Joint 9-2 favourite pulls away on sloppy track to win the 143rd Kentucky Derby


ALWAYS DREAMING won the 143rd Kentucky Derby yesterday morning (Singapore time), pulling away in the final straight on a sloppy track at Churchill Downs in Louisville to claim the first jewel in US flat racing's Triple Crown.

The triumph gave both jockey John Velazquez and trainer Todd Pletcher a second Kentucky Derby victory, but their first together.

Pletcher saddled 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, while Velazquez was aboard 2011 winner Animal Kingdom.

"It means a lot," Velazquez said of winning with Pletcher, the trainer he has teamed with so successfully over the years.

"We have so much success in the past and we haven't won the Derby (together). Finally we got it together with this horse - incredible horse."

Lookin at Lee finished second from the first post, with Battle Of Midway third.

"It's even more sweet this time," said Pletcher, whose three runners in this year's Derby took his total entrants in the Run for the Roses over his career to 48.

Between them, he and Velazquez were two-for-63 in the fabled race that kicks off the coveted treble completed by the Preakness on May 20 and Belmont Stakes on June 10.

"You know, there has been a lot of talk about our Derby record," said an emotional Pletcher. "We were hoping for another one, and this one is all the more sweet."

Thanks to support from the bettors - based on a stellar showing in the Florida Derby on April 1 and strong workouts since - Always Dreaming was sent off at 9-2 and became the fifth straight favourite to win the Kentucky Derby.

He broke well from the fifth post and was always near the front. State Of Honor set the early pace, with Battle Of Midway and Irish War Cry near the lead.

Always Dreaming hit the front going into the final turn. He withstood a challenge from Irish War Cry before pulling away in the straight to leave the late-charging Lookin At Lee, a 33-1 shot trained by Steve Asmussen and ridden by Corey Lanerie, to finish second, two-and-three-quarter lengths behind.

Battle Of Midway, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer and ridden by Flavien Prat, held on for third at 40-1.

"Todd and I talked about it - just make sure you come out running and get a position you would like to have," Velazquez said of his intentions for his relatively inexperienced mount.

"Once he got a comfortable position on the turn with the other horses I went to the outside. He got into the bridle beautiful in the backstretch. From then on, we sat there until the quarter pole (800m) when I asked him to run."

Classic Empire, winner of the 2016 Breeders' Cup Juvenile and the morning line favourite, was jostled at the start. He raced wide in the middle of the 20-horse field down the backstretch and rallied to finish fourth.

Irish War Cry, sent off as co-favourite at 9-2, faded to finish 10th.

It was yet another Kentucky Derby disappointment for the Godolphin stables of Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed as their UAE Derby winner, Thunder Snow, broke awkwardly from the gate and was pulled up by Belgian jockey Christophe Soumillon. An initial examination indicated no serious injury to the horse.