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Midnight Storm wins San Pasqual at Santa Anita; Arrogate out

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ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) Midnight Storm won the $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths after Horse of the Year contender Arrogate was scratched Sunday at Santa Anita.

Ridden by Rafael Bejarano, Midnight Storm ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:40.65 on a wet track and paid $3.20 and $2.10 as the 3-5 favorite.

Accelerate returned $3, while Dalmore was another 2 1/2 lengths back in third. There was no show wagering because of the four-horse field that resulted after Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Arrogate was scratched from the Grade 2 race.

Trainer Bob Baffert decided against running Arrogate after rain had pounded the track the last two days. Arrogate is being pointed toward the inaugural $12 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park in Florida on Jan. 28.

Midnight Storm was coming off a 7 3/4-length victory in the Grade 3 Native Diver Stakes at Del Mar on Nov. 27.

“I thought he’d love the surface,” trainer Phil D’Amato said. “They were going fast.”

The victory, worth $120,000, increased Midnight Storm’s career earnings to $1,461,110, with 10 wins in 21 starts.

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.