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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.

World’s No. 1 horse Arrogate returns to racing at Del Mar

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Arrogate is returning to racing after a nearly four-month layoff with a bulls-eye on his back.

The 4-year-old colt ranked the world’s No. 1 horse brings a seven-race winning streak into the San Diego Handicap on Saturday at Del Mar. He won the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic last year, the $12 million Pegasus World Cup in January and the $10 million Dubai World Cup in his last start on March 25.

His career earnings of $17,084,600 are a North American record.

So what’s a big-shot like him doing in a $300,000 stakes?

It’s a tuneup for more prestigious races later on and the first of three potential starts the colt will make at the seaside track north of San Diego. Arrogate’s target this summer is the $1 million Pacific Classic on Aug. 19. This fall, he will defend his title in the BC Classic, which he won last year at Santa Anita.

The field for the Grade 2 San Diego was reduced to five on Friday when trainer Keith Desormeaux decided to run Dalmore in Sunday’s $75,000 Wickerr Stakes instead of taking on Arrogate.

That leaves Accelerate, Cat Burglar, El Huerfano and Donworth to challenge Arrogate, who figures to be the odds-on favorite in the 1 1/16-mile race. Bob Baffert trains both Arrogate and Cat Burglar.

Arrogate will carry high weight of 126 pounds, including Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith. The colt is spotting Cat Burglar eight pounds, Accelerate nine pounds, Donworth 10 pounds and El Huerfano 11 pounds. In a handicap race, weights are assigned by the racing secretary.

Arrogate hasn’t carried that much weight since winning a minor race at Del Mar last summer. After that, he grabbed the sport’s attention with a record 13 +-length victory in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga. It’s been one big-money victory after another ever since.

The colt has distanced himself from the competition in ways not seen in racing recently.

He knocked off fan favorite and Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome in the BC Classic and beat Chrome again in the Pegasus World Cup. Traveling thousands of miles to Dubai didn’t faze Arrogate, either. Despite a poor start out of the gate, he went on to victory in the desert.

Baffert has masterfully managed Arrogate’s career for owner Juddmonte Farm, with the Hall of Fame trainer carefully picking his spots and the colt’s performance backing him up every time. His only loss came in his career debut when he finished third.

Still, Baffert knows better than most what it’s like leading a world-beater to the track only to watch him lose.

That’s what happened two years ago, when American Pharoah was stunned by Keen Ice in the Travers barely two months after becoming horse racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.

And Arrogate’s rivals are spoiling for a similar upset at Del Mar.

“One great thing about this sport is that they’re not machines,” said Doug O’Neill, who trains Donworth. “As much as Arrogate looks unbeatable, they all are beatable. If he’s not feeling it on Saturday and we are, we’ll shock the world.”

Irap wins Indiana Derby; AJ Foyt’s horse finishes 2nd

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SHELBYVILLE, Ind. — Irap won the $500,000 Indiana Derby by five lengths over Colonelsdarkemper, owned by four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt.

Ridden by Mario Gutierrez, Irap ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.21 on Saturday night at Indiana Grand. He paid $4.80, $3.20 and $2.60 in the Grade 3 race for 3-year-olds. Irap is trained by Southern California-based Doug O’Neill.

Colonelsdarktemper returned $9.60 and $5.80, while Untrapped was another length back in third and paid $2.80 to show.

Foyt is in Toronto for this weekend’s IndyCar race, so he sent grandson A.J. Foyt IV to the track outside Indianapolis.

“He’s always shown a lot of heart and he showed it tonight,” the younger Foyt said about the colt. “He ran a great race.”

The younger Foyt works in the Indianapolis Colts’ front office. He was born in Louisville, Kentucky, where his father Tony trained horses.

“Horse racing holds a special place in my heart, and I’m glad my grandfather still has it going on,” A.J. IV said.