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Santa Anita Derby: O’Neill to saddle four, Baffert three

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ARCADIA, Calif. — Trainer Doug O’Neill will saddle four horses in the $1 million Santa Anita Derby, including 7-2 early favorite Illiad. Bob Baffert has three contenders, including two horses that are co-third choices at 5-1.

Baffert is taking aim at extending his record of seven wins in Saturday’s 1 1/8-mile race, the West Coast’s major prep for the Kentucky Derby.

O’Neill has won the race two times. Besides Iliad, he entered Term of Art, So Conflated and Milton Freewater on Wednesday, when a total of 13 horses were entered for the 80th edition of the Grade 1 race.

Baffert’s trio is Reach the World, American Anthem and Irish Freedom. Reach the World and American Anthem are co-third choices with Battle of Midway, trained by fellow Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer.

The winner earns 100 points on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard, which decides the field of 20 horses for the May 6 race. Second place is 40 points, with 20 to third place and 10 to fourth place.

John Shirreffs, who won the 2007 Santa Anita Derby, entered Gormley and Royal Mo, both owned by Jerry and Ann Moss. They won the 2005 Kentucky Derby with 50-1 shot Giacomo.

Trained by O’Neill, Illiad won the San Vicente by 3 1/2 lengths on Feb. 12 and finished second in the San Felipe on March 11. The colt has two wins in four career starts and earnings of $227,345.

Gormley won the Sham on Jan. 7 and finished fourth in the San Felipe. He has three wins in five career starts and earnings of $320,000.

Reach the World is stepping up in class to run in a stakes race for the first time in his fourth career start.

American Anthem is looking to rebound after finishing 10th in the Rebel at Oaklawn on March 18. Baffert said he lost a shoe while getting beat by 13 1/2 lengths. He then finished second in the Sham, losing by a head to Gormley.

The field in post position order with jockeys and odds (all carry 124 pounds): Term of Art, Tyler Baze, 124 pounds, 12-1; Reach the World, Mike Smith, 5-1; Battle of Midway, Corey Nakatani, 5-1; Comma Sister, Israel Ocampo, 50-1; So Conflated, Mario Gutierrez, 15-1; American Anthem, Martin Garcia, 124, 5-1; Kimbear, Joe Talamo, 124, 12-1; Gormley, Victor Espinoza, 124, 9-2; Iliad, Flavien Prat, 124, 7-2; Milton Freewater, Tiago Pereira, 124, 30-1; Irish Freedom, Rafael Bejarano, 124, 20-1; Midnight Pleasure, Jamie Theriot, 124, 30-1; Royal Mo, Gary Stevens, 124, 10-1.

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.