AP Derby Top 10: Nyquist is so No. 1, California horses rule

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Those California horses sure love the Kentucky Derby. And there’s not a beach anywhere near Churchill Downs — only a winner’s circle, a blanket of roses and a place in the history books.

Led by unbeaten and top-rated Nyquist, the AP’s latest Run to the Roses Top 10 features four Derby-bound 3-year-olds based at Santa Anita Park. The others are No. 3 Exaggerator, No. 4 Mor Spirit and No. 10 Danzing Candy.

For those who like the trend, there’s this: three of the last four Derby winners were based in Southern California — American Pharoah, California Chrome and I’ll Have Another.

Nyquist put his hooves in the water in South Florida for one race, and overpowered Mohaymen in the Florida Derby in a showdown of unbeatens a few weeks ago. Since then, the bay colt has been training for the Derby at Keeneland, about 75 miles from Churchill Downs.

He galloped around Keeneland on Monday morning, with a timed workout set for the end of the week. Trainer Doug O’Neill’s assistant Jack Sisterson said Nyquist “couldn’t look any better.”

Gun Runner, holding firm at No. 2 for trainer Steve Asmussen, worked 5 furlongs in 1:00 at Churchill Downs on Monday with regular rider Florent Geroux aboard.

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“I thought that he handled the racetrack very well and I’m obviously very excited about our opportunities,” said Asmussen, who also trains Arkansas Derby winner Creator — checking in at No. 9 this week. “He’s a tremendous individual as far as conformation and pedigreewise and he’s got a great attitude. He’s very energetic as far as training goes.”

The big news earlier Monday was Cupid being declared out of the Derby after coming out of the Arkansas Derby with a breathing problem known as an entrapped epiglottis. Winner of the Rebel last month, the gray colt trained by Bob Baffert finished 10th in Saturday’s race.

The Derby preps are over, and all roads lead to Louisville, Kentucky for the Derby on May 7. If more than the limit of 20 horses are entered, the field will be determined by qualifying points.

With Cupid out of the picture, Mo Tom moves into the No. 20 spot. The next horse up if another is withdrawn is Fellowship.

Here’s our Top 10:

1. Nyquist (Doug O’Neill, trainer; Mario Gutierrez, jockey): With prep season over, here’s your morning-line Derby favorite. … Resume rocks at 7 for 7, including BC Juvenile and Florida Derby. … Galloped at Keeneland on Monday. … Next start: Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs, May 7. … Derby odds: 3-1.

2. Gun Runner (Steve Asmussen, Florent Geroux): Your points leader at 151, Louisiana Derby winner worked 5 furlongs in 1:01 at Churchill on Monday. … Has four wins in five races. … Next start: Kentucky Derby. … Odds: 13-1.

3. Exaggerator (Keith Desormeaux, Kent Desormeaux): Santa Anita Derby winners have won two of last four Derbys. … Hall of Fame jockey seeks fourth Derby win. … Next start: Kentucky Derby. … Odds: 27-1.

4. Mor Spirit (Bob Baffert, Gary Stevens): Triple Crown-winning trainer down to final Derby bullet after Cupid declared out. … Ran second in Santa Anita Derby and San Felipe. … Next start: Kentucky Derby. … Odds: 11-1.

5. Brody’s Cause (Dale Romans, Luis Saez): If Derby front-runners tire in stretch, Blue Grass winner has a chance. … Three wins all came in state of Kentucky. … Next start: Kentucky Derby. … Odds: 10-1 (mutuel field).

6. Mohaymen (Kiaran McLaughlin, Junior Alvarado): Lost his buzz after running fourth in Florida Derby. … Still has a 5-for-6 record. … Next start: Kentucky Derby. … Odds: 13-1.

7. Outwork (Todd Pletcher, John Velazquez): Wood winner is son of popular sire Uncle Mo. … Last Wood-Derby was Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000. … Next start: Kentucky Derby. … Odds: 30-1.

8. Destin (Pletcher, Javier Castellano): Eight-week layoff for Tampa Bay Derby winner. … Has three wins in five starts. … Top rider has mount so colt cannot be overlooked. … Next start: Kentucky Derby. … Odds: 16-1.

9. Creator (Asmussen, Ricardo Santana): Last-to-first winner of Arkansas Derby gives trainer second contender. … Still a likely long shot with two wins from nine starts. .. Next start: Kentucky Derby. … Odds: 58-1.

10. Danzing Candy (Cliff Sise Jr., Mike Smith): Moves back in based on San Felipe win, fourth-place finish in Santa Anita Derby. … Next start: Kentucky Derby. … Odds: 16-1.

Keep an eye on: Lani, My Man Sam, Mo Tom, Suddenbreakingnews, Whitmore.

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.