Irish War Cry set as the betting favorite for Belmont Stakes

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Irish War Cry will be running on his home track in the $1.5-million Belmont Stakes, but the colt will also be running against history.

Irish War Cry is the +300 betting favorite to win the final leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The withdrawal of Classic Empire (foot abscess) and the touch-and-go situation with second favorite Epicharis (+350), who has been held out of training for three consecutive days due to lameness in his right front foot, leave Irish War Cry as a deserving favorite in a 12-horse race that has neither winner of the first two Triple Crown races.

Only one horse in the field, Meantime, has even run at the elongated oval in Elmont, New York.

The price might be on the short side for Irish War Cry, who will run from lane 7 in the 1 1/2-mile race. On top of that, only two favorites across the last two decades have won the Belmont Stakes, which certainly gives bettors incentive to look elsewhere. After all, 10 of the last 18 winners in the race had odds of +1000 (or 10-1) or higher.

Epicharis, due to his condition, might also need a steer-clear label affixed to him. The colt has not raced in more than two months. Lookin At Lee (+550) tends to drop off from the early pace and, more often than not, the Belmont is captured by a horse that takes an early lead.

The price on Senior Investment (+650) has been dropping rapidly as race day approaches. Senior Investment opened at +1200, but trainer Ken McPeek has a Belmont winner (longshot  Sarava back in 2002) on his resume. That opening price also ties Senior Investment to that trend of winners who had double-digit odds.

Tapwrit (+750), ridden by Jose Ortiz, will be coming in relatively fresh and is capable of being up with the lead pack down the stretch drive. Gormley (+1200) has drawn lane 3, one that has produced its share of winners over the years, but he seems suited to shorter tracks.

Meantime (+1400) will start in the front, but with only one graded stakes race to his credit, even this diluted Belmont field could be above his pay grade, in a matter of speaking.

The remainder of the field on the Belmont Stakes odds consists of J Boys Echo (+1600), Multiplier (+1600), Twisted Tom (+2000), Patch (+2500) and Hollywood Handsome (+3300). Patch was a non-factor in the Kentucky Derby, but has held out of the Preakness and might have the fresh legs to make a run at a top-three finish.

Of the 148 previous runnings of the Belmont Stakes, 62 have been won by the betting favorite (or 42 per cent).

 

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.