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Finest City wins Great Lady M. Stakes at Los Alamitos

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LOS ALAMITOS, Calif. — Finest City caught the pacesetters nearing the finish line and went on to a 1 1/4-length victory in the $200,690 Great Lady M. Stakes for fillies and mares Saturday at Los Alamitos.

Ridden by Kent Desormeaux, Finest City ran 6 1/2 furlongs in a track-record 1:14.48, bettering the mark of 1:14.60 set by Patriots Rule in the E.B. Johnston Stakes on Sept. 5, 2014. The 4-year-old filly paid $19.60, $5.60 and $4 at 8-1 odds.

Defending champion Fantastic Style returned $2.40 and $2.10 as the 1-2 favorite. Lost Bus was another head back in third and paid $3 to show.

Trained by Bob Baffert, Fantastic Style had a 1 1/2-length lead with an eighth of a mile to go in the Grade 2 race. The 4-year-old filly has yet to finish worse than third in eight career races. She had won three in a row coming in.

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Desormeaux rode four winners on the card. He was aboard Finest City for the first time.

“I was elated the way she went to the post like a real professional, then went to school when she got to the gate,” he said. “Even though she has a lot of speed, she was able to relax perfectly.”

Finest City has three wins in 10 career starts and earnings of $275,594. Ian Kruljac, the 27-year-old trainer of Finest City, earned the biggest win of his career.

“I thought we could win because she is all heart and I really didn’t think we had seen her best yet,” he said. “All I told (Desormeaux) before the race was, `Good luck.’ You don’t really tell a Hall of Famer how to do their job.”

Native River gets wire-to-wire win in Cheltenham Gold Cup

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CHELTENHAM, England (AP) Native River delivered an exhibition in front-running to outlast favorite Might Bite in a thrilling duel to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Britain’s most prestigious jumps race, on Friday.

Ridden by champion jockey Richard Johnson, 5-1 shot Native River took the lead right from the start and was never passed in the race over 3 miles and 2 1/2 furlongs in front of a crowd of 70,000.

After they jumped the last fence, Native River and Might Bite were neck and neck, but Johnson got a kick out of the Colin Tizzard-trained horse on the uphill finish and Native River won by 4 1/2 lengths – a year after finishing third in the race.

For Johnson, it was a second victory in the Gold Cup – 18 years after his first on Looks Like Trouble.

“It’s been a long 18 years,” Johnson said. “To be honest, I was a passenger.

“The more I asked from him, the better he jumped.”

Might Bite’s handler, Nicky Henderson, was looking to become the first trainer to capture the Cheltenham Festival’s three signature races in the same year – the Champion Hurdle, the Champion Chase, and the Gold Cup.

It was Might Bite’s first defeat over fences, and Henderson said the heavy going didn’t do the horse any favors – especially against a rival who is a past winner of the Welsh National and the Hennessy Gold Cup

“It was the right thing to track Native River because no other horse got into the race, he had to be in the right place,” Henderson said of the 4-1 favorite.

“On better ground, stamina wouldn’t have been an issue. But in that ground you have to work so much harder. The winner is a Welsh National winner and the reason I’ve never won that race is because I can’t find horses that go in that ground.”

Native River won his owners 369,822 pounds ($515,000).

Anibale Fly, a 33-1 shot, was third.

Jockey Ruby Walsh to miss rest of Cheltenham Festival

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CHELTENHAM, England (AP) Jockey Ruby Walsh will miss the remainder of the Cheltenham Festival after aggravating a leg injury when falling off his horse during the RSA Insurance Novices’ chase on Wednesday.

Walsh, the most successful jockey in the festival’s history with 52 wins, had only recently returned to competition after a four-month layoff due to a broken leg. He was taken to a hospital for X-rays and his sister Jennifer said in a statement that “unfortunately he has aggravated a recent leg injury and will see his consultant in Dublin next week for further assessment.”

Walsh had been set to ride Killultagh Vic in Friday’s Gold Cup.

On Wednesday’s second day of the festival, Altior extended his unbeaten record over jumps to 13 in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Altior had a slow start eventually powered seven lengths clear of the Willie Mullins-trained Min.

It was also a good day for trainer Gordon Elliott who took home three wins, headlined by Samcro in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.

The 8-11 favorite beat Black Op by two and three-quarter lengths.