BELMONT: Sizing up the field for final leg of Triple Crown

Leave a comment

NEW YORK (AP) Preakness winner Exaggerator is the 9-5 morning-line favorite in a field of 13 3-year-olds for the 148th running of the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes. A look at how the field shapes up for Saturday’s final leg of the Triple Crown (horses listed by post position, with trainer, jockey, analysis, morning-line odds):

1. GOVERNOR MALIBU (Christophe Clement, Joel Rosario): Peter Pan runner-up should not be forgotten … In 2014, Clement and Rosario teamed up to win Peter Pan and the Belmont, spoiling California Chrome’s Triple try with Tonalist … Colt has finished in top 3 in all seven career starts … Odds: 12-1.

2. DESTIN (Todd Pletcher, Javier Castellano): A respectable sixth in Derby, skipped Preakness … One of few who could be near lead early on if top rider Castellano chooses … Pletcher seeking third Belmont win. … Odds: 6-1.

3. CHERRY WINE (Dale Romans, Corey Lanerie): Made impressive stretch run to nip Derby winner Nyquist for second in Preakness … One of two Romans horses that likes to make huge late run, but plans are to be not so far back this time … Odds: 8-1.

4. SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS (Donnie Von Hemel, Mike Smith): Could be on verge of breakthrough win … Trainer believes longer distance is asset for closer who ran fifth in the 1 1/4-mile Derby, and second in the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby … Jockey change to Hall of Famer with two Belmont wins … Odds: 10-1.

5. STRADIVARI: (Todd Pletcher, John Velazquez): Rugged start in Preakness in stakes debut, but otherwise ran well in finishing fourth … Could be an early pacesetter, and dictate strategy if Gettysburg doesn’t make grade … Odds: 5-1.

6. GETTYSBURG (Steve Asmussen, Paco Lopez): Speedy colt was late entry by WinStar Farm to help pick up early slow pace that could work against closers such as Creator and Exaggerator, both WinStar connections. Farm even shifted trainers from Pletcher to Asmussen … Entry should ensure quicker pace in 1 1/2-mile race, but little chance to win … Odds: 30-1.

7. SEEKING THE SOUL (Dallas Stewart, Florent Geroux): With this maiden winner and his other one, Forever d’Oro, owner Charles Fipke searching for diamond in rough … Hard to get worked up over either of these colts … Odds: 30-1.

8. FOREVER D’ORO (Dallas Stewart, Jose Ortiz): Broke maiden in third career start at Belmont on May 29 … If nothing else, there’s distance pedigree that could be on his side … Odds: 30-1.

9. TROJAN NATION (Paddy Gallagher, Aaron Gryder): Why not? Despite finishing nearly 27 lengths behind Nyquist in Derby, he did finish second in Wood at odds of 81-1 … Next win would be his first … Odds: 30-1.

10. LANI (Mikio Matsunaga, Yutaka Take): 11th in Derby, sixth in Preakness, is there a top 3 finish for gray colt before heading back to Japan? … Trainer says colt is as relaxed and training as well as possible at Belmont … Still hard to see him challenging, but crazier things have happened … Odds: 20-1.

11. EXAGGERTAOR (Keith Desormeaux, Kent Desormeaux): Deserving favorite seemingly getting better with each race … Won Preakness with strong stretch run in the slop after running second to Nyquist in Derby … Wet track would be an advantage … Odds: 9-5.

12. BRODY’S CAUSE (Dale Romans, Luis Saez): Despite seventh-place Derby finish, Romans not disappointed with effort … Skipped Preakness … If slow pace develops, look for come-from-behind colt to be closer to lead than usual … beat Exaggerator in Breeders’ Futurity last year … Odds: 20-1.

13. CREATOR (Steve Asmussen, Irad Ortiz, Jr.): Jockey change to one of nation’s top riders also familiar with Belmont could help. … Won Arkansas Derby but ran troubled 13th in Derby under Ricardo Santana … Yet another closer who could make this finish an interesting one … Celebrity chef Bobby Flay became part owner on Wednesday … Odds: 10-1.

PICKS: Creator, Exaggerator, Stradivari.

Follow Richard Rosenblatt on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/rosenblattap

Tiger Roll wins Grand National in photo finish

AP Photo
Leave a comment

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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.