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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.

Native River gets wire-to-wire win in Cheltenham Gold Cup

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CHELTENHAM, England (AP) Native River delivered an exhibition in front-running to outlast favorite Might Bite in a thrilling duel to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Britain’s most prestigious jumps race, on Friday.

Ridden by champion jockey Richard Johnson, 5-1 shot Native River took the lead right from the start and was never passed in the race over 3 miles and 2 1/2 furlongs in front of a crowd of 70,000.

After they jumped the last fence, Native River and Might Bite were neck and neck, but Johnson got a kick out of the Colin Tizzard-trained horse on the uphill finish and Native River won by 4 1/2 lengths – a year after finishing third in the race.

For Johnson, it was a second victory in the Gold Cup – 18 years after his first on Looks Like Trouble.

“It’s been a long 18 years,” Johnson said. “To be honest, I was a passenger.

“The more I asked from him, the better he jumped.”

Might Bite’s handler, Nicky Henderson, was looking to become the first trainer to capture the Cheltenham Festival’s three signature races in the same year – the Champion Hurdle, the Champion Chase, and the Gold Cup.

It was Might Bite’s first defeat over fences, and Henderson said the heavy going didn’t do the horse any favors – especially against a rival who is a past winner of the Welsh National and the Hennessy Gold Cup

“It was the right thing to track Native River because no other horse got into the race, he had to be in the right place,” Henderson said of the 4-1 favorite.

“On better ground, stamina wouldn’t have been an issue. But in that ground you have to work so much harder. The winner is a Welsh National winner and the reason I’ve never won that race is because I can’t find horses that go in that ground.”

Native River won his owners 369,822 pounds ($515,000).

Anibale Fly, a 33-1 shot, was third.

Jockey Ruby Walsh to miss rest of Cheltenham Festival

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CHELTENHAM, England (AP) Jockey Ruby Walsh will miss the remainder of the Cheltenham Festival after aggravating a leg injury when falling off his horse during the RSA Insurance Novices’ chase on Wednesday.

Walsh, the most successful jockey in the festival’s history with 52 wins, had only recently returned to competition after a four-month layoff due to a broken leg. He was taken to a hospital for X-rays and his sister Jennifer said in a statement that “unfortunately he has aggravated a recent leg injury and will see his consultant in Dublin next week for further assessment.”

Walsh had been set to ride Killultagh Vic in Friday’s Gold Cup.

On Wednesday’s second day of the festival, Altior extended his unbeaten record over jumps to 13 in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Altior had a slow start eventually powered seven lengths clear of the Willie Mullins-trained Min.

It was also a good day for trainer Gordon Elliott who took home three wins, headlined by Samcro in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.

The 8-11 favorite beat Black Op by two and three-quarter lengths.