LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Jockey John Velazquez rode Always Dreaming to victory on a muddy Churchill Downs track Saturday. The horse was the 9/2 co-favorite to prevail ahead of the race and glided to the win after a day of rain.
Always Dreaming pulled away from Lookin at Lee in the slop to give trainer Todd Pletcher his second Derby victory at Churchill Downs. Battle of Midway was third in the 20-horse field.
Always Dreaming has now won three consecutive races this year after finishing second and third in his first two contests, according to CBS Sports.
Officials said attendance for the Derby was 158,070. That's the seventh-largest crowd in the race's 143-year history.
It rained on and off Saturday, making for muddy conditions on the track and puddles on the pavement.
The weather challenged fashionable fans to party in multiple conditions, with moments of sunshine, too. It's sunny as race time approaches. It's only minutes away.
Before the race, Always Dreaming was the 9/2 co-favorite in the wagering along with Irish War Cry at Churchill Downs.
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.
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 Kentucky Derby red carpet attracts a barrage of reality TV stars, athletes, media figures and other celebrities.
Red Sox legend David Ortiz emerged from the terrace outside the exclusive Turf Club, a bourbon on the rocks in hand, and pondered which Kentucky Derby horse he should put his money on.
"I gotta make some money. Mama needs a new pair of shoes!" said Ortiz, in a pinstripe suit with a feather in his fedora. "And she likes Christian Louboutins so you know it's got to be a lot."
Big Papi rubbed shoulders on the star-studded balcony with other sports legends, like Tom Brady, Wes Welker, Aaron Rodgers and Jerry Rice. It was his first Derby, and his first trip to Kentucky. He said he had so much fun and he hopes it's not his last.
"Goodfellas" actor Paul Sorvino got the biggest applause this year as he serenaded the media crowd at Churchill Downs with a rendition of "My Old Kentucky Home" in his best operatic voice. He got a high-five from a fan and a kiss from his wife.
Bon Jovi guitarist and New Jersey native Richie Sambora shouted "Jersey in the house!" and Katie Couric went out of her way by walking into the crowds that stand behind a media row and snapping selfies with fans.
Couric says she turned 60 this year but can still rock a pink fascinator hat on Derby day. Athletes who walked the red carpet included golfer Justin Rose, Louisville coach Rick Pitino and former NFL quarterback Warren Moon.
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