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California Chrome romps to 12-length win at Los Alamitos

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LOS ALAMITOS, Calif. — California Chrome won the $180,000 Winter Challenge by 12 lengths in track-record time Saturday at Los Alamitos in his final start in California.

Ridden by Victor Espinoza, California Chrome ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:40.03, breaking the old mark of 1:40.82 set by Uncle Lino on April 30 in the California Chrome Stakes.

California Chrome paid $2.10 as the 1-20 favorite in a race that featured only win wagering.

The victory, worth $50,000, increased California Chrome’s career earnings to $14,502,652, with 16 wins in 26 starts.

Point Piper was second at 21-1 odds, while 98-1 shot Papacoolpapacool was another 3 1/4 lengths back in third.

With 5,023 cheering him on, California Chrome made his first and last start at Los Alamitos where he has trained since January 2014 under Art Sherman.

The race served as a prep for California Chrome’s rematch with Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Arrogate in the $12 million Pegasus World Cup on Jan. 28 at Florida’s Gulfstream Park.

Outrun early after breaking from the outside in the field of 10, California Chrome was kept in the clear and extremely wide by Espinoza to avoid any possible traffic problems.

Fifth after the opening half-mile, the 2014 Horse of the Year and world’s richest active thoroughbred moved up to join the leaders without urging and swept to the lead with about 2 1/2 furlongs to run.

“I was pretty nervous before the race,” Sherman said. “You know your horse is better than the others running in the race, but it is a horse race and anything can happen. You could see he was much the best. It was just perfect.

“Now I can relax and get ready for the Pegasus. I want Arrogate bad. I have something in my heart that says Chrome can beat him,” the trainer said.

California Chrome is set to begin his stud career in Kentucky after he competes in the Pegasus World Cup.

In the $100,000 Soviet Problem Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, 1-2 favorite Sircat Sally won by 12 lengths for Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.

Ridden by Drayden Van Dyke, Sircat Sally ran a mile in 1:35.42 and paid $3, $2.60 and $2.20.

Cash Prize returned $9.40 and $6.20 at 17-1 odds, while Bella Luma was another 1 1/4 lengths back in third and paid $3.60 to show.

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.