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22 horses entered for Kentucky Derby; field limited to 20

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Twenty-two horses have been entered for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, two more than the maximum field of 20.

The entry box closed Wednesday morning, with the draw to determine post positions set for later in the afternoon. The field is limited to the top 20 horses based on points earned in designated prep races.

Leading the way is undefeated Nyquist, winner of the Florida Derby. The colt is trained by Doug O’Neill, who won the race in 2012 with I’ll Have Another.

Bob Baffert, who last year trained American Pharoah to the sport’s first Triple Crown in 37 years, will saddle Mor Spirit.

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Trainer Steve Asmussen has two horses, Gun Runner and Creator. Chad Brown has Shagaf and My Man Sam, while Todd Pletcher will saddle Destin and Outwork.

The also eligibles are Laoban and Cherry Wine, who would need defections by early Friday morning to get into the 1 1/4-mile race.

Owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey paid the $200,000 supplemental fee to make Oscar Nominated eligible to the Triple Crown. The colt was not an early nominee on Jan. 16, which would have cost $600, or a late nominee on March 21, which would have cost $6,000. Oscar Nominated is just the third horse to be a supplemental nominee since the practice began in 1996.

The extra money as a result of Oscar Nominated’s supplemental entry raises the Derby purse to $2,391,600, if 20 horses start. It would be the second-richest purse in the race’s 142-year history, behind the $2,399,600 awarded in 2005. The winner would earn $1,631,600.

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.