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This time it’s for real for Always Dreaming

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Always Dreaming won the 143rd Kentucky Derby on Saturday, pulling away in the final straight on a sloppy track at Churchill Downs in Louisville to claim the first jewel in US flat racing’s Triple Crown.

The triumph gave both jockey John Velazquez and trainer Todd Pletcher a second Kentucky Derby victory, but their first together.

Pletcher saddled 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, while Velazquez was aboard 2011 winner Animal Kingdom.

“It means a lot,’’ Velazquez said of winning with Pletcher, the trainer he has teamed with so successfully over the years.

“We have so much success in the past and we haven’t won the Derby (together). Finally we got it together with this horse – incredible horse.’’

Lookin at Lee finished second from the first post with Battle of Midway third.

“It’s even more sweet this time,’’ said Pletcher, whose three runners in this year’s Derby took his total of entrants in the Run for the Roses over his career to 48.

Between them, he and Velazquez were two-for-63 in the fabled race that kicks off the coveted treble completed by the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.

“You know, there has been a lot of talk about our Derby record,’’ an emotional Pletcher said. ‘’We were hoping for another one, and this one is all the more sweet.’’

Thanks to support from the bettors – based on a stellar showing in the Florida Derby on April 1 and strong workouts since – Always Dreaming was sent off at 9-2 and became the fifth straight betting favorite to win the Kentucky Derby.

Under Velazquez, he broke well from the fifth post and was always near the front. State of Honor set the early pace, with Battle of Midway and Irish War Cry near the lead.

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