California Chrome heavy favorite in Breeders’ Cup Classic

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The greater the buzz is about whether California Chrome can complete a historic trifecta by winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the better the odds get on the challengers to the richest horse in North American history.

California Chrome, who will start from the No. 4 post at Santa Anita racetrack under jockey Victor Espinoza, is listed as the -140 favorite for the climatic race of the season at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Chrome, the four-legged equivalent of Michael Phelps – the champion who’s kept on while most of his contemporaries have retired – is an unblemished 6-0 this season and will be trying to complete the first sweep of the world’s three biggest dirt races.

Chrome has already won the Kentucky Derby and the Dubai World Classic. The five-year-old’s odds seem to be getting less profitable by the hour; Chrome opened at even-money and was listed at -120 on Wednesday before the odds shifted again. It’s hard to imagine Chrome losing in his own backyard.

Arrogate, a Bob Baffert-trained three-year-old, draws in as the second favorite at +275 on the Breeders’ Cup Classic odds. The Classic is a 1 1/4-mile race and Arrogate set a track record at that distance while winning the Travers Stakes at Saratoga, New York, in August. However, this is only his sixth career race, so if he prevails he would be the most inexperienced winner in the Classic’s 33-year history. Arrogate is starting from the outside at the No. 10 position.

Frosted, who is listed at +750, has never finished higher than third in four lifetime starts at one mile and a quarter. His two graded stakes wins this year have each come at shorter distances.

Effinex, bred and named by Russell Cohen, offers the most realistic longshot value at +4000. Effinex, with Flavien Prat aboard on Saturday, was the runner-up in the 2015 Classic and will start on the inside from the No. 1 post. That creates the possibility of Effinex, as is his wont, biding his time and making a move for the lead on the home stretch.

Melatonin, listed at +1600 and slotted into the No. 6 post, has won four times at Santa Anita but has not raced since June. No Classic winner has ever had a four-month layoff, but the respite could help the veteran.

Two other darkhorses that rate consideration to place or show are Hoppertunity (+2200, No. 9 post) and Keen Ice (+2500, No. 3 post). Each could benefit from the blistering pace Arrogate and California Chrome could set in the first two quarter miles.

The field of 10 is filled out by Shaman Ghost (+2500, No. 8 post), Win The Space (+6600, No. 5 post) and War Story (+10000, No. 7 post).

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.