Veterinarian on Thunder Snow
For the fifth year in a row, the favorite won the Kentucky Derby.
Always Dreaming took over the lead heading into the final turn and was never really challenged in the stretch, delivering trainer Todd Pletcher his second Derby victory.
Here’s what happened to the other 19 contenders in Saturday’s race:
Lookin At Lee couldn’t run down Always Dreaming in the stretch, but he became the first horse to finish in the money from the No. 1 post position since Risen Star was third in 1988.
Thunder Snow, breaking from the No. 2 post, veered to his right and started bucking right out of the gate, clearing more space for Lookin At Lee on the rail.
Jockey Corey Lanerie slowed Lookin At Lee after his opening strides, and the result was just about as clean an early run as is possible from the rail in a 20-horse field.
“A lot of credit goes to Corey for navigating a very good course from there,” said trainer Steve Asmussen. “I’m just proud of the effort of Lookin At Lee and the whole team. Hats off to the winner.”
Lookin At Lee — a 33-1 shot — was still in 16th place at the half-mile pole before unleashing a big run around the final turn — with Lanerie skimming the rail — and moving all the way to fourth place early in the stretch.
He finished 2 3/4 lengths behind Always Dreaming.
Another long shot
Battle of Midway — a 40-1 shot — broke straight for the lead from the No. 11 post and settled nicely behind pace-setter State of Honor, with Always Dreaming to their inside.
The Santa Anita Derby runner-up was within a length of Always Dreaming as they ran into the stretch and kept up with him for the first few strides there before fading behind the eventual Derby winner and getting passed in midstretch by Lookin At Lee, who beat him by 5 lengths for second place.
“He ran a huge race,” said jockey Flavien Prat. “He gave me everything he had.”
The morning-line favorite
It wasn’t an easy road to the Kentucky Derby for 2-year-old champ Classic Empire, the morning-line favorite for Saturday’s race.
Things didn’t get any easier when the starting gate opened.
“We got wiped out at the start,” said trainer Mark Casse.
Classic Empire broke from the outside-most position in the normal starting gate, while McCraken broke from the No. 15 hole, the first spot in the auxiliary gate. The two colts filled the empty space quickly and collided shortly after the start of the race. Classic Empire was jostled a bit more from there and had fallen back to 13th by the time he got settled going into the first turn.
“That’s the problem with the auxiliary gate,” Casse said. “Classic Empire really got clobbered.”
Classic Empire, who went off at 6-1, made his way through the field around the final turn and had to swing way wide into the stretch under Julien Leparoux, who piloted him to a fourth-place finish.
Horse for the course
McCraken was 3-for-3 at Churchill Downs until Saturday, when he broke straight into Classic Empire at the beginning but largely settled down from there and had plenty of room on all sides heading into the first turn under jockey Brian Hernandez Jr.
“I got a great ride,” trainer Ian Wilkes said. “He got knocked around a bit leaving there, but that’s the Derby.”
McCraken, at 6-1, was in sixth coming into the stretch and had a clear path to make his move. He was bothered by a weaving Gormley and then appeared to make contact with Classic Empire again in the stretch. By the time he got straightened out again, there was nothing left in the tank. McCraken finished eighth.
‘Just kind of quit running’
Irish War Cry, the second choice at 9-2, broke well from the No. 17 post and went toward the front, getting hung out wide going into the first turn.
He was in prime position to make a move going into the stretch, just outside of Always Dreaming and Battle of Midway, but nothing materialized from there.
Irish War Cry faded and finished 10th.
UAE Derby winner Thunder Snow broke a step slow from the gate and started bucking wildly under jockey Christophe Soumillon, who immediately pulled him up. Thunder Snow was quickly corralled by an outrider and led back to the paddock area, where he was found to be uninjured. He walked back to the barn under his own power.
▪ Practical Joke was eighth at the half-mile pole and finished fifth, getting passed by Classic Empire a few strides from the finish line.
▪ Tapwrit never threatened, passing horses in the stretch to finish sixth.
▪ Gunnevera, at 10-1 odds, struggled with the sloppy track and was seventh. “When I asked him for speed and to pick it up, he struggled quite a bit,” said jockey Javier Castellano.
▪ Gormley, the Santa Anita Derby winner, raced a few lengths off the leaders, faded in the stretch and was ninth.
▪ Hence (11th), Untrapped (12th), Girvin (13th), Patch (14th), J Boys Echo (15th) and Sonneteer (16th) never threatened.
▪ Fast and Accurate was expected to set the pace, but he couldn’t beat Always Dreaming to the rail and had to check a bit early in the race. “We weren’t fast enough,” said jockey Channing Hill after the 17th-place finish.
▪ Irap, the long shot Blue Grass Stakes winner, was near the leaders early, but jockey Mario Gutierrez said the colt “flattened out” when he asked him to make his move. He was 18th.
▪ State of Honor set early fractions of :22.70 and :46.53, relinquished the lead to Always Dreaming before the final turn and faded to 19th, last among those who finished the race.