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Connect by a head over Divining Rod in Big A’s Cigar Mile

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NEW YORK (AP) Connect beat Divining Rod by a head at the end of a stretch duel Saturday in the $500,000 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct.

A late developing 3-year-old facing older horses for the first time in a stakes race, Connect won for the fifth time in six starts this season. Ridden by Javier Castellano and trained by Chad Brown, the Pennsylvania Derby winner was part of a four-horse battle turning for home. It turned into a two-horse contest as Connect and Divining Rod pulled away from the pack in the final furlong.

Divining Rod held the slightest advantage until Connect pushed on in the final strides.

“It was an exciting race,” Brown said. “This is such a nice horse. Javier really rode him good. He had to move a little earlier than he wanted and he got a bit of a wide trip, but he knew how to time it just right.”

It was the first race for Connect since the Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 24. Brown opted to give the colt a break after that race.

“There is always a risk doing that,” Brown said. “He could be a little short, but he had just enough today and got it done at a mile.”

Arnaud Delacour, Divining Rod’s trainer, took the tough-luck defeat in stride.

“I thought it was a great stretch run from both horses,” he said. “I think Connect is a great horse, so I’m thrilled.”

Connect paid $5, $3.30 and $2.80 as the 3-2 favorite.

Divining Rod returned $5.10 and $4.90 and Realm paid $7 to show.

The time was 1:35.34 in the final Grade 1 stakes of the year in New York

Connect earned $300,000 for the win, lifting his career earnings to $1.25 million for owner Paul Pompa Jr.

On the undercard, Mo Town stepped up from his maiden win to take $300,000 Remsen Stakes for 2-year-olds.

With the victory, he also moved into next year’s Triple Crown picture.

The son of Uncle Mo is 2 for 3 for trainer Tony Dutrow. The latest was a very professional effort by an inexperienced colt.

After Takaful, the 4-5 favorite, opened a big lead down the backstretch, jockey John Velazquez and Mo Town made a decisive move from fourth into second, narrowing the gap right behind the leader.

Mo Town took over from Takaful in the final eighth of a mile and pulled clear to a 2 1/2 length score over No Dozing. Takaful was third.

Mo Town paid $10.40 to win.

– Paco Lopez rode a pair of upset stakes winners.

He rallied Verve’s Tale rallied past 3-5 favorite Lewis Bay for a 20-1 upset in the $250,000 Comely Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

After losing her first seven races, Verve’s Tale has now won two straight. She prevailed by a neck, paying $43.60 to win for trainer Barclay Tagg.

Lopez reversed tactics in the $300,000 Demoiselle for 2-year-old fillies, posting a front-running victory aboard 5-1 shot Miss Sky Warrior.

She held off Jamyson `n Ginger, the 9-5 choice, by a half-length. It was her third straight win for trainer Kelly Breen.

Miss Sky Warrior paid $13.20 to win.

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.