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Bob Baffert looks for Preakness upset with Collected

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BALTIMORE (AP) Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert hopes Collected will deliver more than another “opening act” in the Preakness on Saturday at Pimlico.

Baffert and his charismatic colt American Pharoah won the Preakness on their way to a sweep of the Triple Crown last year.

But Baffert is short on horsepower for the current 3-year-old classics.

“Last year we were the headliner,” Baffert quipped before the Kentucky Derby. “Now we’re the opening act.”

Mor Spirit, Baffert’s Derby horse, was a not-ready-for-prime-time runner that finished 10th.

Now Baffert goes to the bench with Collected, winner of the Sunland Park Festival of Racing Stakes and the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland in his last two outings.

The colt faces the top of the division for the first time.

“It’s going to be a step up for him,” Baffert said. “He is fast, but there are a lot of fast horses in there. We feel like he deserves a chance. We never thought about the Derby with him, but he’s the kind of horse that brings it every time.”

He faces a field led by Nyquist, the Derby winner with an 8-0 record, and Exaggerator, the Santa Anita Derby winner.

Collected started his career on the turf, winning his debut at Santa Anita before finishing second in the Cecil B. DeMille Stakes at Del Mar in late November.

All five stakes this year have been on dirt.

He made a smooth surface transition, capturing the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita in January. That peaked Baffert’s interest to try the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park in February.

Collected ran fourth there, and Baffert started hunting for softer spots, and got those confidence-building stakes wins in New Mexico and Kentucky.

Now he’s facing harder competition.

“He’s going to be tough to beat,” Baffert said of Nyquist. “The only way we can beat him is either he doesn’t bring his A Game or there’s some racing luck.”

Baffert knows he’ll need good fortune on Saturday to spring a Preakness upset.

“We got beat up a little bit (in the Derby), so we’re trying something else,” he said. “The Preakness is a fun race, and I feel that we have a horse that’s competitive.”

Baffert has six Preakness wins, tying D. Wayne Lukas for second on the all-time list. R.W. Walden set the record with seven in the late 1800s.

Baffert was asked if it was weird returning to Pimlico one year removed from the Triple Crown.

“I’ve come in here weird many years,” said the white-haired trainer, joking.

Collected would be Baffert’s first Preakness winner that didn’t run in the Derby.

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.