Saturday’s running of the Kentucky Derby was noted for a wide open field of 20 contenders, none of whom were tapped to be an overwhelming favorite. This resulted in some very nice odds on all the horses. After the field of three-year-olds crossed the finish line, there were certainly some happy horseplayers who, if they correctly handicapped the order of finish, walked away with a $1 wager made into $8297.20 (the trifecta) or $75,974.50 (the superfecta)!
Actor Jeff Bridges (who portrayed legendary Seabiscuit’s owner Charles Howard in 2003’s “Seabiscuit”) did the honors for the “Riders up!”call for the “Run for the Roses.” When the gates opened, the thoroughbreds and their riders had to contend with more than just each other. Due to heavy rains the day before, they also faced a muddy track.
Thunder Snow in particular acted up, bucking as soon as he left the gate. He was pulled up by his jockey and taken back to the barn where the vet declared Thunder Snow physically fit. Obviously the thoroughbred, winner of the United Arab Emirates Derby, did not like the sloppy Kentucky track conditions.
Fortunately, the mud didn’t seem to faze the rest of the field. At the first turn, it was State of Honor in the lead with Always Dreaming close by along the rail and Battle of Midway not far behind those two. Along the backstretch, rider Jose Lezcano decided to have State of Honor pull ahead of Always Dreaming to take the rail. But Always Dreaming’s jockey John Velazquez was having none of that, taking his horse out and around to make a challenge.
By the far turn, Always Dreaming took off, with Battle of Midway and Irish War Cry in pursuit as State of Honor lost ground. In the final stretch past the grandstand, Always Dreaming kept up the pace to win a second Kentucky Derby for trainer Todd Pletcher. 40 to 1 shot Battle of Midway, ridden by jockey Flavien Prat (recent winner of the Santa Anita riding title), came third after being passed by Lookin At Lee who had moved up from seventeenth along the rail to take second. Classic Empire, the winner of 2016’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, finished fourth.
Meanwhile, the Kentucky Derby viewing party crowd at Santa Anita enjoyed some highlights during the track’s live racing. Jockey Chantal Sutherland scored her 1000th win in the third race aboard Giro Candito. And undefeated three-year-old filly Sircat Sally made sure her record remained pristine with a win on the turf in the Senorita Stakes. Despite her trainer Jerry Hollendorfer being in Kentucky to saddle Battle of Midway, and her regular rider Mike Smith competing in the Kentucky Derby aboard Girvin, Sircat Sally showed her characteristic determination under guidance from jockey Stewart Elliott.