The victory was the second for both trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez, but their first together.
Amidst the mint juleps, fancy hats and losing tickets strewn across the spacious race grounds, one victor emerged in front of 158,070 after weeks of speculation.
Will he love the track at Pimlico in Baltimore in two weeks for the Preakness, a race Pletcher has been known to skip in order to keep his horses fresh for the mile-and-a-half Belmont Stakes three weeks later in NY? But this is the Derby, the event on everyone's bucket list.
The Americans love to label the Kentucky Derby "the greatest two minutes in sport".
After breaking his maiden at Tampa Bay on January 25, Always Dreaming bypassed the usual next Kentucky Derby prep for Florida-based 3-year-olds - the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park - to win a non-stakes race at the same track on the same day.
Friends, if you're reading this then it means my gamble didn't pay off in winning the Kentucky Derby, so instead of rolling in a pile of money, I'm out 20 bucks. "He just keeps coming". He changed exercise riders on Monday and added draw reins to restrain his gallops as they prepped for the race. He was no doubt the alpha horse when he took over at the top of the stretch putting away every challenger easily.
"We got to the (Kentucky) Derby with a relatively fresh horse", Pletcher said. "The most important thing to do is bring the best horse to the Derby, and that's what we were able to do". We're thankful we did it.
"He felt OK but he was struggling with the racetrack early on", Smith said. Together, they harnessed their collective talents to win the Kentucky Derby.
It was also the second win for jockey John Velazquez - the first was in 2011 with Animal Kingdom. "He was getting knocked around so many times and the poor guy just never had a shot inside", his jockey Mike Smith said.
"He's an incredible horse, obviously a very young horse, with not a lot of experience, and to come here today and the way he did it was very impressive".
No matter what you think of Pletcher, and believe me, there are plenty of people who revel in Pletcher's lack of success in the big race, the trainer did his best training job with Always Dreaming. Pletcher picked a unique course to the Kentucky Derby that had his horse tested but rested for the 1.25-mile run. Irish War Cry threatened on the far turn and to the top of the stretch, but the victor put him away handily.
I was extremely impressed with third-place finisher Battle of Midway.More news: UK Conservatives Make Local Gains Before General Election
The bay colt was made the early favorite in the 20-horse field that is considered a wide-open race.
"We got wiped out at the start".
"I'd like another crack at everybody because he had a trip from hell", trainer Mark Casse said.
"Out of the gate, we didn't have any trouble", Velazquez said.
Thunder Snow carries the hopes of Godolphin Racing, which is owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum.
Derby runner-up Lookin At Lee is "definitely a possibility" to run, trainer Steve Asmussen said.
Lookin At Lee, who was the show horse in the Arkansas Derby, took second place in the big race and paid $26.60 and $15.20. "This is the first time I've come here with a horse that's considered a real contender". This is so special to win this race with Johnny. "He got to relax and then waited to the quarter pole and he responded right away". "He was traveling and carrying me". Two of its top four picks missed expectations significantly, and it failed to foresee the emergence of one dark horse. "They'll be another chance", said Lanerie when posed with that possible option. He would be just the fourth maiden and the first since Brokers Tip in 1933 to wear the roses.
Always Dreaming ran 1 ¼ miles in 2:03.59 and paid $11.40, $7.20 and $5.80.
Wagering from all sources on the 14-race Derby Day card reached $209.2 million, a 9% jump over last year's $192.6 million and 8% higher than the previous record of $194.3 million in 2015.
The 2017 Preakness field is setting up favorably for Always Dreaming, though, as it usually does for the Derby victor.
This time he'll be there. The only cue I had came from their names.