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Shagaf favorite in 8-horse field for Wood at Big A

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NEW YORK (AP) So far, Shagaf has been a picture of perfection on the race track.

The biggest test for the 3-year-old bay colt comes Saturday, when he takes on eight rivals in the $1 million Wood Memorial, New York’s major steppingstone to the Kentucky Derby.

Trained by Chad Brown, Gotham Stakes winner Shagaf was made the 2-1 morning-line favorite and drew the inside No. 1 post for the 1 1/8-mile race at Aqueduct Racetrack. No worries for Brown, who also sends out 8-1 shot Flexibility.

“Shagaf is doing well. His works have been good and so was his Gotham,” said Brown, a rising star in the training ranks, after Shagaf went for a morning gallop at Belmont’s training track Wednesday. “He’s certainly being doing everything right. He’s won all three of his races.

“We’ll be adding distance (in the Wood) and we’re looking for him to finish off the race strong. We’ll see the best of him the further he runs.”

Shagaf will be ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., the nation’s second-leading rider in earnings.

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Outwork, second in the Tampa Bay Derby after two wins to open his career, is the 5-2 second choice and drew the outside No. 8 post. Matt King Coal is next at 3-1, leaving from the No. 6 gate.

The Wood carries 170 Derby qualifying points, with 100 to the winner, 40 for second, 20 for third and 10 for fourth. The Derby is limited to 20 starters. If more are entered, the field is determined by points. Earning points is not a concern for Shagaf, who has 50 for last month’s Gotham win.

All others need Derby points.

Outwork, trained by Todd Pletcher, has 20 points but still might need a top-four finish to make the Derby. Flexibility has 15 points and Adventist, trained by Leah Gyarmati, has 12.

Matt King Coal is making his stakes debut for trainer Linda Rice. The colt came off a four-month layoff from a fever and won a first-level allowance race last month.

Brown hopes Flexibility will rebound from his fourth-place finish in the Gotham. As a 2-year-old, the colt finished second twice to top Derby contender Mohaymen, and Flexibility won the Jerome in his first race this year.

“I think he’s coming into the Wood in great shape,” Brown said. “Hopefully, he can use this race to secure some additional (Derby) points.”

The field, from the rail out, is Shagaf (2-1), Adventist (10-1), Trojan Nation (30-1), Tale of S’avall (20-1), Flexibility (8-1), Matt King Coal (3-1), Dalmore (12-1) and Outwork (5-2).

Follow Richard Rosenblatt on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/rosenblattap

Baffert hoping Arrogate gives him third Dubai World Cup win

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Having taken over the mantle as the world’s best racehorse from California Chrome, Arrogate will attempt on Saturday to wear another crown that last fitted his illustrious American compatriot, the Dubai World Cup.

All eyes are on the 4-year-old Arrogate, who lost on debut 11 months ago but hasn’t lost since.

He’s won the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the inaugural $12 million Pegasus World Cup this year to stretch his unbeaten streak to six. In both races, Arrogate defeated Chrome, who won the Dubai World Cup last year at Meydan Racecourse by five lengths despite jockey Victor Espinoza hanging on to a loose saddle for most of it.

Under jockey Mike Smith, Arrogate has forged a winning combination in his last three Group 1 races: Travers Stakes, Breeders’ Cup Classic and Pegasus World Cup.

In Dubai, they have drawn stall nine among 14 contenders, a position which fails to douse the confidence of his trainer Bob Baffert.

“Nine is fine,” said Baffert, who also trained 2015 U.S. Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.

“He’s settled in pretty well. As long as he shows up, that’s the key. If he runs his race, we know what he can do.”

Smith was all praise for his mount, ranked the No. 1 racehorse in the world.

“I have been blessed with some really, really good horses, but I am not sure I have ever sit on one like this,” Smith said.

“Everything about him, his disposition, his mechanics, the way he gets over the ground … at times you feel as if you are running downhill instead of a level ground. What amazes me most is when the race is over, it looks as if he did not put much effort into it. His recovery time is so quick.”

Arrogate’s Breeders’ Cup Classic and Pegasus World Cup wins came over 2,000 meters on dirt, the same distance and conditions as the $10 million Dubai World Cup.

Baffert hopes Arrogate can give him a third Dubai World Cup victory after Silver Charm (1998) and Captain Steve (2001).

He suffered a heart attack during his last visit to Dubai in 2012, and watched the World Cup five nights later with stents in two of his blocked arteries. He also watched from even farther afield last year as his other horse, Hoppertunity, finished third behind Chrome and Mike de Kock’s Mubtaahij.

He’s giving Hoppertunity another chance.

“Both my horses are happy and healthy,” Baffert said. “He (Hoppertunity) should be collecting a check again. That is what he does, picks up the pieces in these big races. He reminds me of Pac-Man, he just keeps going. A Dubai World Cup 1-2, that would be something.”

Mubtaahij is also back, although he will start under Christophe Soumillon from the widest of stalls.

“Like everyone, we wanted low,” the Belgian jockey said. “I will have to … hope for some luck.”

The Dubai World Cup features a nine-race card offering $30 million across six Group 1 and three Group 2 races on turf and dirt.

Six three-year-olds nominated late to Triple Crown series

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Thunder Snow, winner of the UAE 2000 Guineas, is among six 3-year-olds made eligible to compete in the Triple Crown series during the late nomination period.

The late nominees, which required a payment of $6,000 each, raise the total nominations to 425 for the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes. The late nomination period closed Monday. The early nomination window closed in January and required a payment of $600.

Ireland-bred Thunder Snow, owned by Godolphin Racing, is set to run Saturday in the $2 million UAE Derby in Dubai. The colt has three wins in seven career starts for trainer Saeed bin Suroor.

The other late nominees are Hollywood Handsome, trained by Dallas Stewart; More Than Words, trained by Charlie LoPresti; Parlor, trained by Eddie Kenneally; Rapid Dial, trained by Ingrid Mason; and Stretch’s Stone, trained by Bruce Levine.

Thoroughbreds that weren’t nominated to the Triple Crown have one final chance by paying a supplemental fee. The fee for the Derby is $200,000; $150,000 for the Preakness; and $75,000 for the Belmont.