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Ashleyluvssugar wins $200,000 John Henry Turf at Santa Anita

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ARCADIA, Calif. — Ashleyluvssugar won the $200,000 John Henry Turf Championship by a half-length Sunday at Santa Anita.

Ridden by Gary Stevens, Ashleyluvssugar ran 1 1/4 miles in 1:58.35 and paid $8.80, $5 and $3.40 as the 3-1 third choice.

Texas Ryano returned $15.80 and $10 at 14-1 odds, while Twentytwentyvision was another nose back in third and paid $4.80 to show.

Metaboss, the 5-2 favorite, finished fourth in the Grade 2 race.

Ashleyluvssugar was second to longshot El Huerfano all the way until taking command three-sixteenths of a mile from the wire.

The victory, worth $120,000, increased Ashleyluvssugar’s career earnings to $847,504, with eight wins in 17 starts.

The 5-year-old gelding will make his next start in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita on Nov. 5.

“He’s not very big but he’s full of energy, does his job and he loves Santa Anita,” Stevens said.

It was Ashleyluvssugar’s second win in a row and fourth in seven starts on Santa Anita’s turf course.

“This is his kind of track,” trainer Peter Eurton said. “You’ve got to think this horse is just full of heart. When he’s healthy like he is right now, he’s great.”

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.