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Preakness-winning jockey Kent Desormeaux in alcohol rehab

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ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) Preakness Stakes-winning jockey Kent Desormeaux has gone to alcohol rehabilitation but will return in time to ride Exaggerator in the Belmont Stakes next weekend.

“It was time to take a sober look at my life and take this step,” Desormeaux said in a brief statement issued Saturday through his agent J.R. Pegram.

The 46-year-old Hall of Fame rider won the Preakness aboard Exaggerator on May 21 after they finished second in the Kentucky Derby on May 7. The colt is trained by Desormeaux’s older brother Keith.

Desormeaux last rode on May 30 at Northern California’s Golden Gate Fields in the All American Stakes, where he finished 12th aboard Blue Tone. His last day of riding at Santa Anita was May 29, when he won the third race on a horse trained by his brother.

He is scheduled to return to riding Thursday at Belmont Park in New York, where Exaggerator is expected to run in the Belmont Stakes next Saturday.

Desormeaux went to rehab at Cirque Lodge in Sundance, Utah, a facility specializing in drug and alcohol rehabilitation that is popular with celebrities. He has struggled with alcohol issues in the past that have cost him mounts on good horses. His family, including Keith, has publicly expressed concern about the harm they believe he is doing to himself and his career.

Last year, Desormeaux was fined $2,500 by track stewards for being under the influence of alcohol during a race program at Del Mar. He has been subjected to breath tests by the California Horse Racing Board any day he has ridden in Southern California since then and hasn’t failed any.

Desormeaux failed breath tests at tracks in 2010 and 2012.

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.