Lookin At Lee eyes Preakness glory after strong run in Derby

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BALTIMORE (AP) Charging hard down the stretch, Lookin At Lee barely missed winning the Kentucky Derby as a 33-1 long shot.

His second-place finish seemingly impressed no one.

Lookin at Lee has received little attention at Pimlico Race Course this week and is a 10-1 underdog in the Preakness behind Always Dreaming, the 4-5 favorite in Saturday’s race after outlasting Lookin At Lee by a mere 2 3/4 lengths at Churchill Downs.

What gives?

Click here to stream the 2017 Preakness Stakes on NBC Sports

“We don’t worry about that too much,” Lookin at Lee assistant trainer Scott Blasi said after Wednesday’s draw. “He’s a blue-collar horse and probably easy to overlook, but he’s not for us.”

Lookin At Lee hasn’t won a race since last August but has finished in the money in seven of 10 career races. On April 15, Lookin At Lee finished 1 1/2 lengths behind Classic Empire and a length behind runner-up Conquest Mo Money in the Arkansas Derby.

He’s a gritty competitor, which goes a long way toward explaining his impressive run in the slop two weeks ago.

“His personality and gamesmanship are what gave us confidence in him going into the Derby,” trainer Steve Asmussen said. “You have no control over how the other horses run, but you always feel Lookin At Lee is going to do his best.”

Lookin At Lee was ridden expertly in Kentucky by jockey Corey Lanerie, who never sat on the horse until hopping on board in the paddock before the Derby. Lanerie rallied the bay colt along the rail, passing most of the field before coming up short at the end.

At one point, he thought: “I’m going to win the Derby!”

It almost happened, but …

“Always Dreaming just wouldn’t come back,” Lanerie said. “You come so close and you don’t get it done, it’s tough. But to run second on only my third Kentucky Derby mount, it was pretty special.”

Though the odds maker at Pimlico may not have been impressed, Todd Pletcher, the trainer of Always Dreaming, expects another close race on Saturday.

“I think he’s a very good horse,” Pletcher said of Lookin At Lee. “He ran a terrific race in the Kentucky Derby. We were fortunate to win. I thought he ran a very good second, so that makes him certainly a horse you have to keep your eye on for this race.”

Speaking from experience, Blasi expects Lookin At Lee to build on his showing at Churchill Downs.

“Very proud of his effort in the Derby,” Blasi said. “Historically, I think the horses that have run well in the Derby run back well in the Preakness. We’ve won this race twice with Curlin and Rachel Alexandra, both coming back off two weeks rest, and we’re very familiar and very comfortable with what’s getting ready to happen.”

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.