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Gunnevera wins $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot

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VINTON, La. — Once he got the lead, nobody was going to catch Gunnevera, who raced to victory in the $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot for 2-year-olds Saturday at Delta Downs Racetrack.

Ridden by three-time Eclipse Award winner Outstanding Jockey Javier Castellano, Gunnevera ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:45:15 and won by 5 3/4 lengths over Hot Sean. Gunnevera paid $7.80, $4.40 and 3.40.

“The race worked out perfectly for us,” Castellano. “When I asked him to go he went. This is a good horse who will develop. I think he will be better at the longer lengths.”

Gunnevera earned $600,000 and 10 points in the chase for the Kentucky Derby. The Delta Downs Jackpot is part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby Series which gives points to horses in selected races and is the second-richest race for 2-year-olds in North America behind only the Breeders’ Cup for Juveniles.

Bob Baffert trained Hot Sean ($5.40, $4.20) earned four points, and Dangerfield ($8) was third and picked up two points. J Boys Echo finished fourth and received the last point awarded.

Gunnevera needed a little time to get going but was in complete control down the stretch, pulling away from the field. Trained by Antonio Sano, Gunnevera made a winner out of relative racing newcomer Peacock Racing Stables.

“This is a great win for us,” co-owner Jaime Diaz said. “He exceeded our expectations with the way he ran. We think he is going to develop into a very fine horse but we have to wait and see.”

For Diaz and his partners, the victory was a big step in the direction they want to take their racing team.

“We are one of the little guys and we are trying to get where the big guys are,” Diaz said. “The only way you do that is to win and to win big races.”

Diaz said that he will let Sano decide on what path Gunnevera will take in the future.

“We have a great trainer and we trust him,” Diaz said. “This was a big step for us but there is still a long way to go.”

In only her second career start Shane’s Girlfriend won the $400,000 Delta Downs Princess Stakes for 2-year-old fillies. She was ridden by Flavien Prat.

Baffert hoping Arrogate gives him third Dubai World Cup win

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Having taken over the mantle as the world’s best racehorse from California Chrome, Arrogate will attempt on Saturday to wear another crown that last fitted his illustrious American compatriot, the Dubai World Cup.

All eyes are on the 4-year-old Arrogate, who lost on debut 11 months ago but hasn’t lost since.

He’s won the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the inaugural $12 million Pegasus World Cup this year to stretch his unbeaten streak to six. In both races, Arrogate defeated Chrome, who won the Dubai World Cup last year at Meydan Racecourse by five lengths despite jockey Victor Espinoza hanging on to a loose saddle for most of it.

Under jockey Mike Smith, Arrogate has forged a winning combination in his last three Group 1 races: Travers Stakes, Breeders’ Cup Classic and Pegasus World Cup.

In Dubai, they have drawn stall nine among 14 contenders, a position which fails to douse the confidence of his trainer Bob Baffert.

“Nine is fine,” said Baffert, who also trained 2015 U.S. Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.

“He’s settled in pretty well. As long as he shows up, that’s the key. If he runs his race, we know what he can do.”

Smith was all praise for his mount, ranked the No. 1 racehorse in the world.

“I have been blessed with some really, really good horses, but I am not sure I have ever sit on one like this,” Smith said.

“Everything about him, his disposition, his mechanics, the way he gets over the ground … at times you feel as if you are running downhill instead of a level ground. What amazes me most is when the race is over, it looks as if he did not put much effort into it. His recovery time is so quick.”

Arrogate’s Breeders’ Cup Classic and Pegasus World Cup wins came over 2,000 meters on dirt, the same distance and conditions as the $10 million Dubai World Cup.

Baffert hopes Arrogate can give him a third Dubai World Cup victory after Silver Charm (1998) and Captain Steve (2001).

He suffered a heart attack during his last visit to Dubai in 2012, and watched the World Cup five nights later with stents in two of his blocked arteries. He also watched from even farther afield last year as his other horse, Hoppertunity, finished third behind Chrome and Mike de Kock’s Mubtaahij.

He’s giving Hoppertunity another chance.

“Both my horses are happy and healthy,” Baffert said. “He (Hoppertunity) should be collecting a check again. That is what he does, picks up the pieces in these big races. He reminds me of Pac-Man, he just keeps going. A Dubai World Cup 1-2, that would be something.”

Mubtaahij is also back, although he will start under Christophe Soumillon from the widest of stalls.

“Like everyone, we wanted low,” the Belgian jockey said. “I will have to … hope for some luck.”

The Dubai World Cup features a nine-race card offering $30 million across six Group 1 and three Group 2 races on turf and dirt.

Six three-year-olds nominated late to Triple Crown series

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Thunder Snow, winner of the UAE 2000 Guineas, is among six 3-year-olds made eligible to compete in the Triple Crown series during the late nomination period.

The late nominees, which required a payment of $6,000 each, raise the total nominations to 425 for the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes. The late nomination period closed Monday. The early nomination window closed in January and required a payment of $600.

Ireland-bred Thunder Snow, owned by Godolphin Racing, is set to run Saturday in the $2 million UAE Derby in Dubai. The colt has three wins in seven career starts for trainer Saeed bin Suroor.

The other late nominees are Hollywood Handsome, trained by Dallas Stewart; More Than Words, trained by Charlie LoPresti; Parlor, trained by Eddie Kenneally; Rapid Dial, trained by Ingrid Mason; and Stretch’s Stone, trained by Bruce Levine.

Thoroughbreds that weren’t nominated to the Triple Crown have one final chance by paying a supplemental fee. The fee for the Derby is $200,000; $150,000 for the Preakness; and $75,000 for the Belmont.