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Illuminant wins Grade 1 Gamely Stakes at Santa Anita

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ARCADIA, Calif. — Illuminant closed from just off the pace to win the $300,000 Gamely Stakes for fillies and mares by one length Monday at Santa Anita.

Ridden by Flavien Prat, Illuminant ran 1 1/8 miles on turf in 1:48.34 and paid $12.40, $5 and $3.40 at 5-1 odds in just her second start in a Grade 1 race.

“It’s pretty exciting to win a race like this,” trainer Michael McCarthy said. “I thought she would run well. She’s a very honest filly, tries hard and I thought the mile and an eighth would be right up her alley.”

France-bred Wekeela returned $2.60 and $2.40 as the 4-5 wagering favorite in her second U.S. race after shipping in from New York for trainer Chad Brown.

“The pace was slow, but we were right behind the winner turning for home and that filly never stopped,” said Javier Castellano, aboard Wekeela.

Ireland-bred Elektum was another three-quarters of a length back in third and paid $3.80 to show.

Keri Belle was fourth, followed by Fanticola, Nancy From Nairobi, Dressed to a T and Nashoba’s Gold. Evo Campo was scratched.

Trainer John Sadler saddled Elektum, winless in her last five starts since last August at Del Mar, and Nancy From Nairobi, whose three-race winning streak ended after she never pressed the pace.

With Fanticola using her natural speed to set the early pace, Illuminant settled into second most of the way around until gaining a short lead into the stretch before inching away under Prat’s right-handed whip.

“Fanticola was the only speed in the race, so I knew that I needed to be right there,” Prat said. “My filly has speed too, so I knew it would be OK.”

Fanticola was second by a neck in last year’s Gamely. She finished in the money for the 12th time in 13 races on the track’s turf course.

Illuminant finished third behind winner Tepin and runner-up Wekeela in the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley on turf at Keeneland last month.

“The turf is a bit softer here and that’s maybe better for her, especially going a mile and an eighth,” Prat said. “Here at Santa Anita, I feel it’s better if you’re closer to the lead. At Keeneland, it’s a bigger turf course and when you come from off the pace there it’s easier.”

The victory, worth $180,000, increased Illuminant’s career earnings to $367,650, with four wins in 11 starts.

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.