I'll Have Another runs away with Kentucky Derby in final fur
Louisville, Kentucky: The glorious unpredictability of horse racing produced a fairytale winner of the $2.2 million (Dh8.08 million) Kentucky Derby on Saturday when I'll Have Another stormed to victory in the 138th Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs.
A record crowd of almost 165,000 roared themselves hoarse as the three-year-old chestnut colt, perfectly ridden by unheralded Mexican jockey Mario Gutierrez, hit the lead in the shadows of the iconic Twin Spires and kicked clear to win the $2.2 million, 1-1/4 mile (2000 metres) classic.
Bodemeister, who started as the 4-1 favourite after winning last month's Arkansas Derby by an eye-popping nine and a half lengths, finished second, 1-1/2 lengths back, after trying to lead all the way.
The fast-finishing Dullahan (8-1) came third, a further neck behind while Union Rags, the 9-2 second favourite, was seventh in the 20-horse field after getting caught in heavy traffic.
"He is an amazing horse," Gutierrez said. "I told everybody before the first time I rode him, I knew he was the one."
I'll Have Another, who was bought last year by Canadian businessman J Paul Reddam for just $35,000, emerged as a contender to win the annual Run for the Roses after winning last month's Santa Anita Derby in California.
But he was still considered an outsider in one of the most open Derbies in years, starting at odds of 15-1 and paying $32.60 for a $2 win bet.
"It is beyond belief," winning trainer Doug O'Neill said. "Somebody asked me earlier in the week what it would be like to win the Kentucky Derby and I used Bubba Watson's quote when he won the Masters. I never dreamt this far. I never in a million years thought we could do it."
The connections wasted no time declaring their grand plans to tackle the Triple Crown. It has been 34 years since a horse has won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes but Reddam said they would give it a go.
"Subconsciously, that was always the plan," Reddam said. "We knew we had a good horse and we wanted to make sure he was fresh because the Triple Crown is a gamble. It looks like it paid off. We've only run three times this year so Preakness here we come."
Bodemeister lost no admirers after a bold front running display on the tight, dirt track. He jumped straight into the lead from post position six and set a scorching pace.
Jockey Mike Smith kicked five lengths clear rounding the final turn but could not hold off the late sprint from I'll Have Another as he faded in the last furlong.
A huge crowd packed into the course, dressed in an array of outfits and sipping on mint julep drinks.
1. I'll Have Another
Winning trainer: Doug O'Neill
Winning Jockey: Mario Gutierrez
Winner paid $32.60 for a $2 win bet
Margins: One and a half lengths, neck
Time: Two minutes 01.83 seconds