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Top filly Songbird out of Kentucky Oaks with fever

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Without Songbird, the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on the day before the Kentucky Derby won’t be the same.

The undefeated star fill developed a “low grade fever” after winning the Santa Anita Oaks two weeks ago, and won’t run in the race considered the Derby for 3-year-old fillies.

Songbird has won all seven of her races with ease and would have been the overwhelming favorite for the Oaks on May 6. The 2-year-old champion and winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, the filly is one of the top 3-year-olds in the country – male or female.

“She will be taken care of and will go back to the track only when she is 100 percent,” trainer Jerry Hollendorfer told The Associated Press in a phone interview Sunday night. “We’ve got a really nice filly and I suspect she will come back later in the year.”

After her last win, owner Rick Porter Jr., reiterated he would not run his filly against the boys in the Derby. Hollendorfer, a Hall of Fame trainer, also prefers to keep his fillies from competing against males.

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Since the Santa Anita Oaks, Porter posted on his Fox Hill Farms’ Facebook page, Songbird “has not been able to go out to the track. With the fever not resolved, she was started on a course of antibiotics today (Sunday), and as a result it’ll be another 7-10 days before she’s able to return to the track.”

Porter also owned Eight Belles, the filly who finished second to Big Brown in the 2008 Derby before breaking down around the first turn after the finish and being euthanized on the track.

After Songbird’s latest win over a sloppy track, Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith marveled, “She’s just incredible. I feel so blessed and I keep pinching myself, having to remind myself that I’m the one that gets to keep the weight on her. That’s really all I do.”

The news leaves the Oaks field wide open. Among the contenders are Fantasy Stakes winner Terra Promessa, Gazelle winner Lewis Bay, Fair Grounds Oaks winner Land Over Sea and Ashland winner Weep No More.

“We are sorry to have to miss the Oaks but what’s most important is to get Songbird well, and we have two great vets along with Jerry and his team taking good care of her,” Porter said.

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.