Bodmeister's Always Dreaming Captures Kentucky Derby
Mark Smith - Sunday, 7 May 2017

John Velasquez guided the Todd Pletcher-trained Always Dreaming through the slop to win Saturday's Grade I Kentucky Derby before 158,070 fans at Churchill Downs.

It was the second win in the race for both jockey and trainer.

Backed into favouritism off the strength of his 5-length score in the Grade I Florida Derby, Always Dreaming sat up on the pace before kicking clear in the straight to win by two and three-quarter lengths from Lookin At Lee a son of one season shuttler Lookin At Lucky, with Battle of Midway (Smart Strike) another five lengths back in third. (photo Churchill Downs). 

Last year's champion juvenile colt and early favourite Classic Empire finished fourth.

Second and third in his two juvenile starts, Always Dreaming broke his maiden at Tampa Bay Downs at his 3yo debut then backed that up with a comfortable all the way win in an allowance at Gulfstream Park.

He then took the quantum leap to Grade I level in the Florida Derby on his way to Churchill Downs.

His record advances to 4 wins, 1 second and 1 third from 6 starts with earnings of $2,284,700.

Pletcher's previous victory came with Super Saver in 2010 and admitted he was feeling some pressure from all the talk about his record in the Derby.

"My Derby record has been talked about a lot. … When you look at it now, we've been here 17 years and we've been fortunate to have two wins, two seconds, and three thirds," Pletcher told The Blood-Horse. "I feel like I really needed that second one.

"I felt like Johnny and I needed one together as well.

"We have had a great relationship for a long time now, and we have won a lot of races together. This one we hadn't and this is the one we wanted to win together. And I'm glad we could do it."

"This is the best horse Todd and I have ever come to the Kentucky Derby with," Velazquez said. "Nothing against the others, but this was the best horse."

A $350,000 Keeneland yearling Always Dreaming comes from the first crop of WinStar Farm's Arkansas Derby winner Bodmeister who finished second in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2012.

Bodemeister is by Classic winner Empire Maker whose son Pioneer of the Nile is the sire of the Australia-bound Triple Crown Champion and Horse of the Year American Pharoah as well as this year's Kentucky Derby fourth Classic Empire.

The tenth foal of his dam Above Perfection, Always Dreaming is a half-brother to Grade I Spinaway Stakes winner Hot Dixie Chick (Dixie Union).

A daughter of In Excess, Above Perfection was a slick sprinter winning four stakes races including the Grade III Las Flores Stakes at Santa Anita.

Her Medaglia d'Oro (USA) 2yo filly was a $485,000 weanling and Above Perfection had a Pioneer Of The Nile filly last year. 

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