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 The next horse up if another is withdrawn is Fellowship.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.

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.