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Always Dreaming checks into Pimlico’s Stall 40 for Preakness

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BALTIMORE (AP) Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming made himself right at home Tuesday in Stall 40 at Pimlico Race Course, munching on hay while his handlers scurried around him.

The bay colt was in excellent spirits after traveling from Churchill Downs to Pimlico, where he will spend the next 11 days before running in the Preakness.

Always Dreaming was pampered by assistant trainer Ginny DePasquale, who will be joined by her boss, trainer Todd Plentcher, on Wednesday.

“I just spoke to Todd and told him: `The horse looks very bright-eyed. He looks very happy,”‘ DePasquale said. “It’s pretty special to see him looking that well. I’m happy and I know Todd is.”

Stall 40 is traditionally reserved for the Kentucky Derby winner and has housed many of the greatest champions in horse racing history. Secretariat and Seattle Slew are among several Triple Crown winners who resided there, but Always Dreaming is the first Derby winner to cozy into Stall 40 since California Chrome in 2014.

“It’s actually very exciting because we think he’s a really, really special horse,” DePasquale said.

The 1 3/16-mile Preakness will be run May 20. The notion behind bringing Always Dreaming to Pimlico well in advance of the race was twofold: to avoid excessive travel and to let the horse get familiar with his surroundings.

Instead of transporting the New York-based Always Dreaming from Kentucky to Belmont and back to Baltimore, Pletcher figured it was best just to eliminate the trip to New York.

“All that traveling, it doesn’t really take anything out of him, but you never really know,” DePasquale said. “It’s simpler to bring him here, let him settle in and save all that shipping back and forth.”

The plan is for Always Dreaming to jog around the track Wednesday and “probably gallop” on Thursday, according to DePasquale.

Sometime next week, things will begin to get hectic at Pimlico. Until then, Always Dreaming will have the place pretty much to himself.

“Yeah, I think that’s the important part – just let him look around without all the excitement,” DePasquale said. “That way, he can take everything in. And then slowly but surely, all the excitement starts.”

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.