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Always Dreaming fifth straight favorite to win Derby

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Always Dreaming, ridden by John Velazquez, was a dominant winner Saturday in the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs before a crowd of 158,070.

Always close to the pace, Always Dreaming became the fifth straight favorite to win the Derby when returning $11.40 on a $2 win bet. The son of Bodemeister won by 2 3/4 lengths and finished the 1 1/4-mile distance in 2:03.59 over a sloppy track.

Lookin At Lee, a 33-1 shot, ran on late to be second, five lengths before Battle of Midway. Classic Empire was fourth, and Practical Joke was fifth.

Always Dreaming is owned by a six-way partnership and is trained by Todd Pletcher. It was the second Derby victory for both Velazquez and Pletcher, although their previous wins came separately.

"I think it's even more special than the first one," Pletcher, a seven-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer, said after the race.

The $2 exacta (5-1) paid $336.20, the $1 trifecta (5-1-11) returned $8,297.20, the $1 superfecta (5-1-11-14) was worth $75,974.50 and the $1 super high five (5-1-11-14-19) paid $493,348.70.

The winning partners in Always Dreaming are MeB Racing Stable, Brooklyn Boyz Stables, Teresa Viola Racing Stables, Elias Stable, Siena Farm LLC and West Point Thoroughbreds.

Always Dreaming, bred in Kentucky by Santa Rosa Partners, won for the first time Jan. 25 at Tampa Bay Downs after failing to win maiden races in two attempts at 2. That's the longest it has taken a Derby winner to be a first-time winner since Broker's Tip captured the 1933 Derby as a maiden.

The last and only time at least five straight favorites won the Derby was in the late 1890s. Since Churchill instituted a qualifying points system in 2013, the favorite has won every year: Orb (2013), California Chrome (2014), American Pharoah (2015), Nyquist (2016) and now Always Dreaming.

This Derby was not without its misadventures. Thunder Snow, the Godolphin entry, bucked in the first 50 yards of the race and was immediately pulled up without further incident. Irish War Cry angled in at the start, compromising the chances of those inside of him: Tapwrit, McCracken and Classic Empire.

Otherwise, it was a cleanly run race up front, with Always Dreaming easily putting away State of Honor before drawing clear. Battle of Midway was always within striking distance of the leaders when holding well to be third.

Pletcher now has won twice from a record-tying (with former boss D. Wayne Lukas) 48 Derby starters. His prior win came with Super Saver in 2010, also over a sloppy track. Velazquez's prior Derby win came in 2011 with Animal Kingdom.