Derby Trainers, Jockeys Have Their Say on Yesterday’s Kentucky Derby

Pletcher Derby
Todd Pletcher holds the Kentucky Derby trophy after Always Dreaming won the race. Photo credit: Churchill Downs

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Quotes from Derby Trainers

Todd Pletcher, trainer of Always Dreaming (1st)/Tapwrit (sixth)/Patch (14th) – (A very emotional Todd Pletcher shedding tears of joy): “I knew we had a big shot with this horse and I was hoping it would happen. The trip unfolded not exactly the way we had planned. We knew for sure we didn’t want to be behind a wall of horses and that turned out OK. Johnny (Velazquez) of course rode him great. This is so special to win this race with Johnny. We’ve been together for all these years and this is sweet. I’m sorry I don’t have a clue about my other two horses. I was so intense following Always Dreaming up front that I never did get a chance to pick them up.”

Steve Asmussen, trainer of Lookin At Lee (2nd)/Hence (11th)/Untrapped (12th) –“I’m definitely proud of ‘Lee.’ He just keeps coming. Drawing the one was tough. He’s the first horse in 20 years to run in the top three from the one hole. A lot of credit goes to Corey (Lanerie) for navigating a very good course from there. To me, the Kentucky Derby, everything about it is a thrill. I’m just proud of the effort of Lookin at Lee and the whole team. Hats off to the winner. He ran an incredible race. With Untrapped, Ricardo (Santana Jr.) found a really good spot with him. It just ran away from him in the middle. Hence didn’t run into the mud hitting him.”

Jerry Hollendorfer, trainer of Battle of Midway (3rd) – “I thought our horse gave a nice effort. We had a good position coming into the lane but Todd’s horse was too good.”

Mark Casse, trainer of Classic Empire (4th)/State of Honor (19th) – “We got wiped out at the start. That’s the problem with the auxiliary gate. McCraken came and nearly knocked us. Classic Empire really got clobbered. The track is impossible. Our horse ran extremely well, considering. State of Honor didn’t like the track. I should have told Jose (Lezcano) to go right to the rail because the track has been so speed favoring, especially on the rail.”

Chad Brown, trainer of Practical Joke (5th) — “We got a beautiful trip from the 19 hole. I thought Joel (Rosario) did as well as he could. My horse really got a dream trip, I thought. He even got to the inside where it appeared the track had been better the last two days. He cut the corner and he just couldn’t sustain his run. I thought he handled the conditions well and so did Joel. Can’t blame the track. I think today he showed he just has a limit to how far he can run. He’s a fine racehorse, he’s a Grade 1 racehorse. He just can’t go this classic distance. I’ll talk to the owners, we’ll give him a little bit of a breather, and we’ll focus on races a little bit shorter than this.”

Antonio Sano, trainer of Gunnevera, (7th) – “He came back very well. We have no excuse.”

Ian Wilkes, trainer of McCraken (8th) – “I got a great ride. He got knocked around a bit leaving there but that’s the Derby. I thought he got him in a good rhythm, got him in a good position. He made his move and I got a little excited but he didn’t finish it off. The winner was too good.”

John Shirreffs, trainer of Gormley (9th) – “Gormley came back fine. I’d really prefer not to comment on his race until I have a chance to watch the replay.”

Graham Motion, trainer of Irish War Cry (10th) – “Rajiv (Maragh) said he was cruising at the top of the stretch. He said he kind of went from having a lot of horse to not having a lot of horse in three strides. Could it be the mile and a quarter? Maybe, but I think it’s too early to say. He just didn’t finish up. Rajiv thought he was really traveling at the top of the stretch.”

Joe Sharp, trainer of Girvin (13th) – “Mike (Smith) came back and said he belongs with this bunch. He hated the track, but still tried to make a run and then we got wiped out on the turn.” Mike said I should run him back in the Preakness or the Belmont.”

Dale Romans, trainer of J Boys Echo (15th) — “He just had an awfully rough trip. I came back to the barn to check on him and he seems to be walking fine.”

Keith Desormeaux, trainer of Sonneteer (16th) – “He obviously didn’t like the track because Kent (Desormeaux) was having to ride him the whole way. He usually takes a hold and relaxes, but today Kent had to ask him and that tells me he didn’t like the track. That simple.”

Mike Maker, trainer of Fast and Accurate (17th) — “All is well. Not good enough.”

Doug O’Neill, trainer of Irap (18th) – “Disappointing. Mario (Gutierrez) said he didn’t handle the track at all. We’ll have to talk to Mr. (Paul) Reddam, but I don’t think it is likely we will go on to Maryland.”

Dr. Keith Latson, AAEP On Call Veterinarian on Thunder Snow (DNF) — “Thunder Snow galloped back to the paddock comfortably under his own power. He was examined by Dr. Jennifer Kaak and was found to have no injuries and walked back to his barn under his own power.”

Quotes from Derby Jockeys

John Velazquez, rider of Always Dreaming (1st) – “This is the best horse Todd (Pletcher) and I have ever come to the Kentucky Derby with. Nothing against all the others, but this was the best horse. I got a good position with him early and then he relaxed. When we hit the quarter pole, I asked him and he responded. He did it himself from there.”

Corey Lanerie, rider of Lookin At Lee (2nd) – “My horse ran great. I’m caught with seconditis – second in the Preakness and now second in the Derby. I’m still very happy.”

Flavien Prat, rider of Battle of Midway (3rd) – “We got a good trip. He broke well from the track, took me right there. He ran a huge race. He gave me everything he had.”

Julien Leparoux, rider of Classic Empire (4th) – “We got bumped around really hard at the start which put us in a very tough position early. He really only had one race before this but we’ll get them next time.”

Joel Rosario, rider of Practical Joke (5th) — “Going into the final turn I thought we were in a great spot but turning for home my horse just stayed in the same spot.”

Jose Ortiz, rider of Tapwrit (6th) — “In the beginning the 17 hole (Irish War Cry) came over on me. I got in good position behind Classic Empire but he didn’t respond today.”

Javier Castellano, rider of Gunnevera, (7th) – “I didn’t think he handled the (sloppy) track at all. In the beginning, he was holding it together, but when asked him for speed and to pick it up, he struggled quite a bit. It was disappointing.”

Brian Hernandez Jr., rider of McCraken (8th) – “We got knocked around a little bit leaving there but from that point on we had a pretty uneventful trip. Turning for home we just weren’t on the best horse today.”

Victor Espinoza, rider of Gormley (9th) – “I had a great trip, but not enough horse. He never really picked up the bridle.”

Rajiv Maragh, rider of Irish War Cry (10th) – “My trip was ideal, what I was hoping for. He broke well out of the gate and got a good position. He relaxed beautifully off the pace. Going into the turn, I seemingly had a lot of horse. I was ready to engage the five horse (Always Dreaming), he just kind of quit running on me.”

Florent Geroux, rider of Hence (11th) – “I just couldn’t keep up. I was trying to follow lookin at lee but I could never catch up.”

Ricardo Santana Jr., rider of Untrapped (12th) – “It’s a tough trip but it’s the Derby. I wish we could’ve gotten a better trip.”

Mike Smith, rider of Girvin (13th) – “He felt OK but he was struggling with the racetrack early on. He was getting knocked around so many times and the poor guy just never had a shot inside. I felt like I was in the one hole. I finally get him running at the three-eighths pole and someone wiped out four of us again. The shot was over then.”

Tyler Gaffalione, rider of Patch (14th) – “We had a good trip. We came into the stretch and got behind a couple of tiring horses, but he came back well and move on to the next race.”

Luis Saez, rider of J Boys Echo (15th) – “Everybody came from the outside and killed us. I tried to rush him and see what we got, but by the half-mile everybody’s gone.”

Kent Desormeaux, rider of Sonneteer (16th) – “I had no horse. I had no horse, never had a chance.”

Channing Hill, rider of Fast and Accurate (17th) – “He ran good and he ran his race. We wanted to make the lead but we weren’t fast enough. I thought I shot early on but not able to quicken him.”

Mario Gutierrez, rider of Irap (18th) – “I was in a great spot going around the turn and on the backstretch. I was following the speed and my horse was moving well. Once I asked him to respond he flattened out.”

Jose Lezcano, rider of State of Honor (19th) – “I think my horse didn’t like the sloppy track. He broke good, I put him in a good position and let him go a little early. He stopped early but I think (on a fast track) he can go longer.”

Christophe Soumillon, rider of Thunder Snow (DNF) — “I don’t know what happened at the start.”

I think the blinkers had him more focused. I was a little concerned early on, he was a little too head strong. Johnny made a good tactical move letting the pace setter go and then getting outside of the horse. He fought back hard, finished up well and galloped out with enthusiasm. This race was a big step in the right direction. I was pleased with the way he conducted himself. He seems to be maturing as he gets more experience.”

Todd Pletcher, Trainer for Noble Indy

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