Fresh horses await Derby winner Always Dreaming in Preakness

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Always Dreaming is headed to the Preakness in two weeks, when the Kentucky Derby winner is likely to face several fresh horses that skipped the first leg of the Triple Crown.

A majority of the 20-horse field that ran on a sloppy Churchill Downs track in Saturday’s Derby won’t go on to Baltimore.

Trainer Todd Pletcher said Sunday that Always Dreaming will head to Baltimore on Tuesday so the 3-year-old colt has plenty of time to adjust to his new surroundings ahead of the 1 3/16-mile race to be run May 20.

“At Pimlico, there’s generally not a lot of horses training there,” he said. “It will be a quiet environment, give us time to get him settled in and if we have to make any adjustments, we’ll have time to do that.”

Always Dreaming will take up residence in stall No. 40, which traditionally houses the Derby winner in the Pimlico stakes barn.

The dark bay colt was difficult to train in the days leading to the Derby, forcing Pletcher to adjust his equipment. Eventually, Always Dreaming settled down and won by 2} lengths, equaling the longest streak of favorites to win since five in a row did so in the 1890s.

“He’s really got some spring in his step this morning,” Pletcher said.

The 49-year-old trainer and jockey John Velazquez won their second Derbies. Pletcher was still sorting through hundreds of congratulatory text messages, including ones from Hall of Fame basketball coach Lute Olson and Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett.

No horse asserted his dominance in the winter prep races leading up to the 143rd Derby. As the winner, Always Dreaming certainly commands respect. However, the colt isn’t scaring away the competition in the Preakness.

The field for the second leg of the Triple Crown is capped at 14 – six fewer than the Derby.

“There’s not that much separation from this bunch of 3-year-olds right now, from what I can see, other than maybe the winner yesterday,” said trainer Ken McPeek, who is pointing Lexington Stakes winner Senior Investment toward the Preakness.

Among Always Dreaming’s Derby rivals, second-place finisher Lookin At Lee and 13th-place Girvin are possible for the Preakness. If an issue with fourth-place Classic Empire’s right eye clears up, he could join them.

Classic Empire got banged into by McCraken in the start of a chain-reaction collision and his eye was nearly closed shut on Sunday.

“I’d like another crack at everybody because he had a trip from hell,” trainer Mark Casse said. “He looks a bit like Muhammad Ali after a rough night.”

Southern California-based Royal Mo, who didn’t get into the Derby, will run in the Preakness.

Gunnevera, who was seventh in the Derby, is another possibility.

Other possible new shooters include Illinois Derby winner Multiplier, Cloud Computing, Conquest Mo Money and Lancaster Bomber from the barn of Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien.

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.