He’s here! Kentucky Derby champ Nyquist arrives at Pimlico

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BALTIMORE — When it comes to selecting a stall for his Kentucky Derby winner at Pimlico Race Course, trainer Doug O’Neill doesn’t care much for tradition.

He’d rather go with his own tested method for success.

Unbeaten Nyquist arrived at Pimlico on Monday and was eased into Stall 24 of the Stakes Barn with six other horses trained by O’Neill.

The Kentucky Derby winner is usually kept in highly regarded Stall 40 of the Preakness Barn, home of several Triple Crown champions, including Secretariat and Seattle Slew.

O’Neill spurned Stall 40 in 2012 with Derby winner I’ll Have Another, choosing instead to keep the horse in the Stakes Barn.

I’ll Have Another won the Preakness, and Nyquist’s handlers can only hope this horse does likewise.

“It really keeps the horses happy. It worked with I’ll Have Another and we’re going to do the same thing with Nyquist,” assistant trainer Jack Sisterson said.

Nyquist improved to 8-0 after winning by 1 1/4 lengths at Churchill Downs. He will seek to make in nine a row in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness on May 21.

Nyquist was transported by plane from Kentucky on Monday afternoon. He covered the final leg of the trip with a police escort from Baltimore-Washington International Airport before being led to the barn shortly after 6:30 p.m.

It isn’t often that the Derby winner arrives so soon in Baltimore, but that’s what O’Neill and owner J. Paul Reddam did four years ago and the strategy proved sound.

“We can do anything with Nyquist,” Sisterson said. “It worked with I’ll Have Another. So we kept kind of the same routine and got him over here early. He gets acclimated and he gets to turn over the stuff he’ll run on.”

The plan is to go easy on the horse this week.

“He’ll walk the next couple days and then we’ll get him back to the track jogging,” Sisterson said. “Then he’ll do like we’ve done his whole career. He jogs one day and then gallops the next.

“We won’t change anything. Again, the beauty with Nyquist mentally is that whatever we put in front of him, he handles it. His whole career, we’ve kept him on the same training routine, and we’re not going to change it now.”

Sisterson will oversee the care and training of Nyquist until O’Neill arrives on Thursday.

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.