Kentucky Derby 2017

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Compiled by Nancy Brannon

After nearly a week of rain, sloppy mud was the track condition at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky for the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby on a cool, sunny Saturday afternoon, May 6, 2017. Churchill Downs announced an attendance of 158,070 people at the track on Derby day.

The 9-2 favorite Always Dreaming splashed through the slop to win the Kentucky Derby by 2¾ lengths, giving trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez their second victories in the race, but their first together. Always Dreaming ran the 1¼ miles in 2:03.59. “This is the best horse Todd and I have ever come to the Kentucky Derby with,” Velazquez said. Always Dreaming earned his fourth straight victory, the Derby worth $1,635,800.

Always Dreaming was followed across the finish line by a pair of long shots: 33-1 Lookin At Lee and 40-1 Battle of Midway. Arkansas Derby winner Classic Empire finished fourth, followed by Practical Joke, Tapwrit, Gunnevera, McCraken, Gormley and Irish War Cry. Hence was 11th, followed by Untrapped, Girvin, Patch, J Boys Echo, Sonneteer, Fast And Accurate, IRAP, and State of Honor.

Velazquez used his colt’s speed out of the gate to get good position early in a chaotic start that saw several horses, including Classic Empire, get sandwiched. He steered Always Dreaming into an ideal trip behind pacesetter State of Honor, with mud flying in all directions on a sloppy track.

On the final turn, Always Dreaming took command as State of Honor faded. Despite chasing a quick early pace, Always Dreaming was still full of run. No other horses threatened him down the stretch, and Velazquez furiously pumped his right arm as they crossed the finish line.

“I got a good position with him early and then he relaxed,'” Velazquez said. “When we hit the quarter pole, I asked him and he responded. He did it himself from there.”

In the days leading up to the Derby, the colt’s behavior was less than a dream. He was fractious in the morning, refusing to relax. “I was nervous watching him gallop,” Pletcher said.

As it turned out, the dark brown colt channeled his aggression into a determined effort on a track turned into goo by on-and-off rain before the race. “I think he really came in here and knew it was game time, and he was ready to go,” Pletcher said. “The most important thing to do is bring the best horse to the Derby, and that’s what we were able to do.”

Always Dreaming's primary ownership comprises Brooklyn Boyz Stables, Anthony Bonomo, Theresa and Vincent “Vinnie” Viola. Viola, an Army Reserve major, became a billionaire Wall Street trader and the owner of the Florida Panthers in the N.H.L. Bonomo made it big in the insurance industry and is the chief executive of Physicians’ Reciprocal Insurers.

It was Bonomo’s wife Mary Ellen who gave the Derby winner his name. “I just always daydreamed,” she said. “I probably daydream a little too much. Why don’t we just name it Dreaming? Everybody dreams of something, whether it’s a big event or special day, the birth of their child, winning the Kentucky Derby. So I just said, ‘Always Dreaming.’ It just took off.”

Always Dreaming was foaled February 25, 2014, a dark bay/brown colt from the first crop of foals sired by Bodemeister, runner-up in the 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. His dam, Above Perfection, won the Las Flores Handicap in 2002. Both Bodemeister and Above Perfection are known for their speed, and there are multiple stamina influences further back in their pedigrees.
Associated Press/ESPN, “Always Dreaming Overcomes Soggy Track To Win 143rd Kentucky Derby,”
Las Vegas Review-Journal, “Always Dreaming Splashes to Victory at Kentucky Derby,”
Drape, Joe, “Always Dreaming’s Story Starts With 2 Brooklyn Boys’ Trips to the Track.” New York Times.
Pedigree Insights: Always Dreaming.


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