On May 5, 2017, a full field of 20 horses entered the starting gate at Churchill Downs for the running of the 143rd Kentucky Derby. The race was seen by many as more wide open than it has been in recent years with no clear favorite. A strong case could have been made for almost every horse in the field.
The co-favorites as the horses took up the post parade were Irish War Cry and Classic Empire. Both horses had performed well in the prep races leading up to the Kentucky Derby. But it was Always Dreaming who entered the starting gate as the 9-2 betting favorite. The betting public must have realized something special about this Todd Pletcher trained horse. The colt broke sharply, laid back until the final turn before making a strong winning move, and crossed the finish line first to give Pletcher his second win in the Kentucky Derby. His other victory came with Super Saver in the 2010 Kentucky Derby.
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Always Dreaming was ridden to victory by John Velazquez, one of the game’s top jockeys. Velazquez is especially good in capturing graded stakes races. He has often led the nation in yearly graded stakes wins. Velazquez showed an especially patient hand with Always Dreaming, timing his winning move perfectly. Many had downplayed the chances of Always Dreaming, a horse who likes to close from off the pace, because the 2017 Kentucky Derby field boasted no clear front runner. With an absence of early speed, some predicted a wire to wire finish for either Irish War Cry or Classic Empire.
As the race played out, it was the Steve Asmussen trained Lookin At Lee who attempted to steal the race under jockey Corey Lanerie. If the horse had held on for the win, it would have been the first Kentucky Derby victory for both Asmussen and Lanerie. Lookin At Lee was a longshot. As the horses entered the Churchill Downs homestretch, Always Dreaming began to overtake the tiring leader, going on to win the race by 2 ¾ lengths. Battle of Midway finished third in the race, five lengths back.
Victor Always Dreaming paid $11.40, $7.20, and $5.80. Lookin at Lee returned $26.20 and $15.20. Battle of Midway delivered a strong show payout of $20.80. The combination of horses also combined to produce some very strong exotic payoffs for bettors who were keen enough to identify the longshot horses who completed the trifecta.
It is not often that favorites win the Kentucky Derby. This can be especially true when it rains. That was the case in the 2017 Kentucky Derby. The day dawned rainy and the track was somewhat sloppy when the horses entered the starting gate. As is the case every year, those who oppose the use of the auxillary starting gate used the rain to bolster their cries for its exclusion. They also pointed to the early running of Thunder Snow as evidence that the Kentucky Derby field is too crowded.
Thunder Snow came out of the gate bucking and was pulled up by his jockey. He did not finish the race. The horse was examined for injury on the track and was found to be in good shape. Thunder Snow was able to walk back to the barn area where his connections and veterinarians performed testing to evaluate the horse for injury.
The sentimental favorite for the 2017 Kentucky Derby was Patch, a one-eyed colt that captured the hearts of race fans around the world thanks to his courage. Patch lost his left eye due to an ulcer that became infected and never healed. The horse showed tremendous heart as he competed for the win but came up short.
Many were left wondering how the other races in the Triple Crown series would shape up. Some have questioned the overall caliber of the horses in the 2017 field, claiming that none of them have the talent required to capture the Triple Crown. It appears that the series of races could produce three different winners.
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