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AP DERBY TOP 10: It’s still Nyquist, of course

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NEW YORK — And now, a few words about undefeated horses running in the Kentucky Derby – Nyquist, specifically.

After the 3-year-old colt blew away now once-beaten Mohaymen in winning the Florida Derby on Saturday, Nyquist boosted his record to 7-for-7.

The son of Uncle Mo again proved more than worthy of his No. 1 spot on the AP’s Top 10 list of Kentucky Derby contenders. He’s also the 3-1 favorite in the Derby’s final future wager odds.

As for becoming an unbeaten Derby winner, Nyquist will be bucking longer odds. Of the 26 unbeatens that entered the Derby starting gate in the past 100 years, seven were still undefeated after the Run for the Roses. That would put Nyquist’s odds of winning a little better than 4-1.

Nyquist, though, will be the first horse taking a 7-0 or better record into the Derby in 26 years – since Mister Frisky ran eighth in 1990 after winning 16 in a row (the first 13 in Puerto Rico). Big Brown in 2008, Barbaro in 2006 and Smarty Jones in 2004 all won the Derby, but came into the race with six or fewer wins.

Seattle Slew remains the only undefeated Triple Crown winner, coming into the races at 6-0 and then sweeping the Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes in 1977.

The other unbeaten Derby winners are Majestic Prince (1969), Morvich (1922) and Regret (1915).

RELATED: How to watch the Kentucky Derby

Onward to May 7.

Even with a fourth-place finish, Mohaymen still has five wins in six starts and doesn’t lose much ground this week, dropping one spot to No. 3. Louisiana Derby winner Gun Runner moves up to No. 2, and Triple Crown-winning trainer Bob Baffert has No. 4 Cupid and No. 7 Mor Spirit.

Huge changes are likely after Saturday’s trio of Derby preps – Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, Santa Anita Derby and Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.

All three carry a total of 180 Derby qualifying points – 100 for first, 50 for second, 20 for third and 10 for fourth. Finish first or second – maybe even third – and a spot in a full 20-horse field is all but set.

-The Wood features undefeated Shagaf (3-0) in a field that could total 10.

-The Santa Anita Derby will have a small but deep field in Danzing Candy, Mor Spirit and Exaggerator. Danzing Candy beat Mor Spirit in the San Felipe last month.

-The Blue Grass field keeps growing, with as many as 13 starters possible. Among them are Zulu, Brody’s Cause and American Dubai.

Wrapping up last weekend’s preps:

-The rare pre-Derby duel between best in the East (Mohaymen) and best in the West (Nyquist) was brief – and decisive. A brilliant ride by Nyquist jockey Mario Gutierrez appeared the big reason.

With Mohaymen racing outside of Nyquist, Gutierrez allowed Nyquist to drift further out coming around the far turn. That forced Junior Alvarado aboard Mohaymen even further outside toward the center of the track. At that point, Nyquist pulled away and beat Majesto by 3 1/4 lengths.

“I saw the gray horse (Mohaymen) coming and I decided if he was going to pass me,” Gutierrez said, “he was going to do it running wide.”

-At Turfway Park, 23-1 shot Oscar Nominated prevailed in the Spiral Stakes to earn 50 Derby qualifying points. Problem is he’ still not Triple Crown nominated. However, owner Ken Ramsey says the supplemental entry fee of $200,000 will be paid. He now tells the Courier-Journal that someone has accepted his offer and stepped forward to pay the fee for a chance to split any earnings the horse gets from Triple Crown races.

Here’s our Top 10:

1. Nyquist (Doug O’Neill, trainer; Mario Gutierrez, jockey): Won Florida Derby with ease over chief rival Mohaymen. … Will be first Derby starter unbeaten in seven or more starts since Mister Frisky in 1990. … Arrived at Keeneland to train. … Next start: Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs, May 7. … Derby odds (final future wager): 3-1.

2. Gun Runner (Steve Asmussen, Florent Geroux): Louisiana Derby winner may have what it takes to deal with big Derby field. … Worked 4 furlongs in 50.60 under Geroux at Churchill Downs on Monday. … Has four wins in five races. … Next start: Kentucky Derby. … Odds: 25-1.

3. Mohaymen (Kiaran McLaughlin, Junior Alvarado): Don’t give up on this talented gray colt. … Just didn’t kick in when taking on Nyquist in Florida Derby. … Next start: Kentucky Derby. … Odds: 13-1.

4. Cupid (Bob Baffert, Martin Garcia): Rebel winner loving Santa Anita before return to Arkansas. … Won last two starts after two career-opening losses. … Next start: Arkansas Derby, Oaklawn Park, April 16. … Odds: 11-1.

5. Danzing Candy (Cliff Sise Jr., Mike Smith): San Felipe winner has chance to move up with win this weekend. .. Worked 5 furlongs in 1:00.60 at Santa Anita on Saturday. … Next start: Santa Anita Derby, Santa Anita Park, Saturday. … Odds: 16-1.

6. Shagaf (Chad Brown, Irad Ortiz Jr.): A Wood win and colt would come into Derby with 4-0 record. … Gotham winner worked 4 furlongs in 48.40 at Belmont on Saturday. … Next start: Wood Memorial, Aqueduct, Saturday. … Odds: 17-1.

7. Mor Spirit (Baffert, Gary Stevens): Looking to avenge San Felipe loss. … With Cupid and Mor Spirit, Baffert could have another 1-2 Derby punch. … Next start: Santa Anita Derby. … Odds: 11-1.

8. Lani (Mikio Matsunaga, Yutaka Take): UAE Derby winner settling in at Churchill Downs. … Bred in Kentucky, races in Japan. Next start: Kentucky Derby. … Odds: 25-1.

9. Destin (Todd Pletcher, Javier Castellano): Tampa Bay Derby winner looking to make it three in a row with win in final Derby prep. … Next start: Arkansas Derby … Odds: 16-1.

10. Zulu (Pletcher, John Velazquez): Fountain of Youth runner-up worked 4 furlongs in 49.07 at Palm Beach Downs on Saturday. … Next start: Blue Grass, Keeneland, Saturday. … Odds: 34-1.

**Keep an eye on: Brody’s Cause, Exaggerator, Mo Tom, Outwork, Whitmore.**

 

Tiger Roll wins Grand National in photo finish

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AINTREE, England — Tiger Roll won the Grand National Steeplechase in a photo finish over Pleasant Company as Irish horses dominated the world’s most famous steeplechase at Aintree on Saturday.

A 4 1/2-mile (6,400-meter) race was won by a matter of inches in the closest finish to the Grand National since 2012, when Neptune Collonges won by a nose.

Tiger Roll, a 10-1 shot, was leading by as much as 10 lengths in the long run to the line, but only just held off the fast-finishing Pleasant Company (25-1) to win a first prize of 500,000 pounds ($710,000).

“I did have a big fear,” said jockey Davy Russell, who won the race for the first time at his 14th attempt. “It would have been heartbreaking.”

The first four horses home in the National were from Ireland, including Bless The Wings (40-1) and Anibale Fly (10-1).

It was the second National victory for both trainer Gordon Elliott, who also won with Silver Birch in 2007, and owner Michael O’Leary, who had 2016 winner Rule The World. O’Leary is chief executive of budget airline Ryanair.

“We bought the horse as a pint-sized hurdler,” O’Leary said, “but he’s got a heart of a lion.”

Russell grew up dreaming of winning the National. As a child, he erected Aintree-style fences in his garden and pretended to ride a horse over them.

“I’ve won this race thousands of times (in my head),” Russell said. “But not like this.”

David Mullins, the jockey of Pleasant Company, said he thought he was well-beaten after jumping the next-to-last fence.

“Davy was going so much better than me,” Mullins said.

That seemed to be the case as the horses made it past the elbow in the run to the line, but Pleasant Company closed in as Tiger Roll faded. It was too close to call as they crossed the line and the 171st edition of the race required a photo finish to separate them.

Total Recall went off as the 7-1 favorite but fell.

 

Baffert: McKinzie won’t run in Santa Anita Derby

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ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) McKinzie will miss the Santa Anita Derby on April 7 because of an unspecified problem.

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert confirmed the colt won’t run in the West Coast’s major prep for the Kentucky Derby due to an issue in one of his hind legs. X-rays and scans haven’t confirmed what it is.

Baffert said Saturday in Dubai that McKinzie is “definitely out,” according to multiple media reports. He says he’s being “very cautious.”

The colt edged Bolt d’Oro in the San Felipe Stakes on March 10, but was disqualified and placed second for interference in the stretch.

McKinzie was 10th on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 40 points for owners Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman. The colt won the Los Alamitos CashCall Futurity on Dec. 9 and the Sham Stakes on Jan. 6.

Baffert was in the Middle East to saddle West Coast and Mubtaahij to second- and third-place finishes in the $10 million Dubai World Cup.