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Always Dreaming wins 2017 Kentucky Derby

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Always Dreaming splashed through the slop to win the Kentucky Derby by 2 3/4 lengths on Saturday, giving trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez their second victories in the race but their first together.

Always Dreaming has now won three consecutive races this year after finishing second and third in his first two contests, according to CBS Sports.

Pletcher and Velazquez have teamed up often over the years and are the sport's leading money winners. On their own, they were a combined 2 for 63 coming into America's greatest race.

Together, they were unbeatable on a cool and rainy at Churchill Downs.

Jockey John Velazquez in the winner's circle after winning the the Kentucky Derby on May 6, 2017. Andy Lyons / Getty Images

Sent off at 9/2 odds, Always Dreaming made it the fifth straight year that a Derby favorite has won, the longest such stretch since the 1970s.

Always Dreaming was followed across the finish line by a pair of longshots: 33-1 Lookin At Lee and 40-1 Battle of Midway. Always Dreaming ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:03.59 and paid $11.40, $7.20 and $5.80.

Lookin At Lee returned $26.60 and $18.20, while Battle of Midway was another five lengths back in third and paid $20.80 to show.

Pletcher won his first Derby in 2010 with Super Saver; Velazquez won the following year with Animal Kingdom.

Going into his 17th Derby, Pletcher saddled the post-time favorite for the first time. Much had been made of his 1 for 45 Derby record. Altogether, he's had 48 runners, tying mentor D. Wayne Lukas for the most in Derby history.

"It's becoming a little more respectable now," Pletcher said.

Velazquez used his colt's speed out of the gate to get good position early in a chaotic start that saw several horses, including Classic Empire, get sandwiched. He steered Always Dreaming into an ideal trip behind pacesetter State of Honor, with mud flying in all directions on a track that resembled creamy peanut butter.

On the final turn, Always Dreaming took command as State of Honor faded. Despite chasing a quick early pace, Always Dreaming was still full of run. No other horses threatened him down the stretch and Velazquez furiously pumped his right arm as they crossed the finish line.

Always Dreaming earned his fourth straight victory, proving that his five-length win in the Florida Derby was no fluke.

By winning the Derby, he accomplished something his sire Bodemeister couldn't do. Bodemeister finished second in the 2012 race.

Classic Empire finished fourth, followed by Practical Joke, Tapwrit, Gunnevera, McCraken, Gormley and Irish War Cry. Hence was 11th, followed by Untrapped, Girvin, one-eyed Patch, J Boys Echo, Sonneteer, Fast And Accurate, Irap, and State of Honor.

Pletcher also trains Tapwrit and Patch.

Thunder Snow, the Dubai-based entry, didn't finish. He broke poorly out of the starting gate and began bucking. He was caught by the outrider and he walked back to the barn on his own.

The history behind the Kentucky Derby

Officials said attendance for the Derby was 158,070. That's the seventh-largest crowd in the race's 143-year history.

Earlier in the day, Limousine Liberal survived a sudden downpour and a stretch scramble to win the $500,000 Churchill Downs Sprint.

It was up for grabs in the final furlong with several horses still having a shot. The 5-year-old gelding trained by Ben Colebrook pulled it out by a head over Awesome Slew for a 13-1 upset as the skies opened up again. Limousine Liberal paid $28.40 to win.

Jose Ortiz was aboard for his second stakes win of the day. Earlier, he rode Paulassilverlining to victory in the Humana Distaff.

Trainer Chad Brown won a second stakes Saturday on the Kentucky Derby undercard when Roca Rojo prevailed by a head in the $300,000 Distaff Turf Mile.

Kentucky Derby photographer stands out from the pack

The race ended with a head-bobbing finish as the pacesetting Believe in Bertie and Roca Rojo hit the wire together. The photo awarded the victory to 6-5 favorite Roca Rojo, her sixth in eight starts.

A 5-year-old with international experience, Roca Rojo won her first two races in her native Ireland before joining Brown's U.S. stable last year. Florent Geroux guided her over the mile in 1:37.53 on a rain-softened turf course. Roca Rojo paid $4.60 to win.

The sun broke through the clouds early in the afternoon Saturday after a gloomy morning, allowing fans to discard their rain gear and show off their best Derby outfits.

But the rain returned late in the afternoon, prompting many fans to seek whatever cover they could find at Churchill Downs. Others sat through the rain, looking over soaked programs to consider any final bets leading up to the Kentucky Derby.

The field heads to the first turn during the 143rd Kentucky Derby on Saturday. Jamie Squire / Getty Images

Kentucky Derby 2017 results

1. Always Dreaming, 9/2
2. Lookin at Lee, 33-1
3. Battle of Midway, 40-1
4. Classic Empire, 6-1
5. Practical Joke, 27-1
6. Tapwrit, 27-1
7. Gunnevera, 10-1
8. McCracken, 6-1
9. Gormley, 22-1
10. Irish War Cry, 9/2
11. Hence, 15-1
12. Untrapped, 58-1
13. Girvin, 22-1
14. Patch, 14-1
15. J Boys Echo, 47-1
16. Sonneteer, 39-1
17. Fast and Accurate, 41-1
18. Irap, 41-1
19. State of Honor, 54-1
20. Thunder Snow, 16-1

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