Published: Sun, May 07, 2017
Sport | By Cecil Buchanan

Kentucky Derby favorite Classic Empire once pulled U-turn mid-race

Kentucky Derby favorite Classic Empire once pulled U-turn mid-race

He was followed across the finish line by a pair of longshots: 33-1 Lookin At Lee and 40-1 Battle of Midway.

But that combination, along with Always Dreaming's three straight victories in five career starts, helped the horse surpass Classic Empire as the 9-2 favorite Saturday morning. Espinoza has won the Triple Crown.

Jockey John Velazquez and trainer Todd Pletcher have been racing's greatest team for years.

Velasquez made a shrewd move coming out of the first turn, moving Always Dreaming away from the inside, the deepest part of the track, and to the outside flank of the pace-setting long shot State of Honor.

"I just always daydream", she said. For a few moments, it seemed as though everyone forgot that the race was going on in Louisville and not Plains Township.

Always Dreaming, a headstrong colt who caused his connections much consternation during the week, skimmed over the soupy stretch of Churchill Downs on Saturday to win the 143rd Kentucky Derby. Given all the high-priced horse flesh in his barn, it was viewed as a bit of a disappointment that his only Kentucky Derby victory came with Super Saver in 2010.

Purchased in September 2015 at Keeneland in Kentucky for $350,000 - Bonomo joked that his son, Anthony Jr., "overspent", but that he no longer believes so - Always Dreaming had done all of this after his hiatus last summer and fall after Pletcher took him on last early September. When the leader faded, Always Dreaming assumed the lead by a head at the 3/4 pole and widened it out from there.

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Maybe that was because observers felt he had the horse to get that elusive second win.

Despite winning a record seven Eclipse Awards for Top Trainer and ranking as the leading purse victor in history at age 49, Pletcher is the guy who's saddled nearly 50 horses for the Kentucky Derby and won just once.

"Any time you have a 3-year-old go under 1:48 in a mile-and-an-eighth race, that's pretty special", he said. Even then, bettors rejected the choice, pushing Always Dreaming and Irish War Cry above him in the pre-race odds at 9-2. The third-place finisher in the Florida Derby earns 20 points, and the lowest Kentucky Derby qualifier had 30. "It is always an open race for everybody", Montelongo said. "The second I had to ask him to straighten up and once I got under the wire for the first time, I was happy where I was".

Battle of Midway held on for third.

Keep an eye out for Cinderella story, Patch, a one-eyed horse. "The first was extra special and I have a tremendous respect for how hard it is to win, but we needed another one as a team to put it together".

While the best hat victor may not have been taking part in the gambling, others were more than excited to bet on horses and explain their bets. His position in the starting gate aside, Irish War Cry was impressive earlier this season with wins in the Holy Bull and Wood Memorial races.

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