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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.

American filly Lady Aurelia wins again at Royal Ascot

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ASCOT, England — American filly Lady Aurelia won at Royal Ascot for the second straight year, cruising to a three-length victory in the King’s Stand Stakes under replacement jockey John Velazquez on Tuesday.

“She’s a once-in-a-lifetime horse,” said trainer Wesley A. Ward after Lady Aurelia backed up her win in the Queen Mary Stakes in 2016.

Frankie Dettori was scheduled to ride Lady Aurelia, but pulled out of the entire meeting early Tuesday after failing to recover from an arm injury sustained when he was thrown off a horse in a parade ring last week.

Velazquez was drafted in and settled the U.S. horse into a good early position. Lady Aurelia took the lead with two furlongs to run and pulled away, winning the five-furlong race in 57.45 seconds, just short of a course record.

“This is wonderful for American racing,” said Ward, who has eight career winners at Ascot since 2009. Six of those wins have been by juveniles.

Ward has 10 entries at the prestigious meeting staged just outside London, as part of the largest contingent of U.S. runners – 14 – to compete at Royal Ascot.

Following the arrival of Queen Elizabeth II at the course ahead of the start of the meeting, racing was preceded by a minute’s silence in honor of the victims of attacks in Britain in recent weeks.

Royal Ascot to make to make U.S. Television debut

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STAMFORD, Conn. – NBCSN presents daily live coverage of the Royal Meeting in Ascot, Berkshire, England – one of the most prestigious horse racing meets in the world – beginning Tuesday, June 20, at 8:30 a.m. ET. NBCSN’s live coverage of the full five-day Royal meeting, Tuesday through Saturday, June 24, will air daily from 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. ET — for a total of 22.5 coverage hours. This year’s coverage marks the U.S. television debut of the event.

Royal Ascot is one of the world’s most valuable horse racing events, attracting many of the world’s finest racehorses. The event features 30 races, including eight at the world championship “Group One” level. Five US‑based trainers are expected to field a total of 14 runners, headlined by Todd Pletcher, whose horses won the Kentucky Derby (Always Dreaming) and Belmont Stakes (Tapwrit) this year. Pletcher’s American Patriot runs in Tuesday’s Queen Anne Stakes.

The Royal Meeting is the center of the British social season and a pivotal week in the calendar of the Royal Family, who arrive every day by the world famous “Royal Procession” – with the first carriage carrying The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.