Getty Images

Classic Empire trains for Belmont; True Timber won’t run

Leave a comment

NEW YORK — Preakness runner-up Classic Empire completed his last serious training for the upcoming Belmont Stakes.

The 3-year-old colt covered a half-mile in 50 seconds under exercise rider Martin Rivera at Churchill Downs in Louisville on Friday. Classic Empire’s workmate Airoforce was timed in 52 seconds.

Norm Casse, who assists his trainer-father Mark, says it’s all systems go for Classic Empire in the 1 +-mile Belmont on June 10. The colt is set to fly to New York on Tuesday.

Classic Empire, who finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby, and Lookin At Lee are the only horses expected to run in all three legs of the Triple Crown. Lookin At Lee was second in the Derby and fourth in the Preakness.

Meanwhile, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin says True Timber won’t run in the Belmont after being diagnosed with a fever on Friday. True Timber finished third in the Sir Barton on the Preakness day undercard and was fourth in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.

Trainer Todd Pletcher confirmed that Louisiana Derby runner-up Patch and stablemate Tapwrit will run in the Belmont after both completed five-eighths workouts in 1:01.45 on Friday at Belmont Park. Patch, the one-eyed horse, was 14th in the Derby, and Tapwrit was sixth.

Other horses probable to run in the Belmont are: Japan-based Epicharis, J Boys Echo, Peter Pan runner-up Meantime, Multiplier, Senior Investment and Twisted Tom. Santa Anita Derby winner Gormley and Wood Memorial winner Irish War Cry are possible, pending workouts this weekend.

Tiger Roll wins Grand National in photo finish

AP Photo
Leave a comment

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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.