Arrogate heads field for Breeders’ Cup Classic

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Defending champion Arrogate heads a full field of 14 horses for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, with the world’s all-time leading money earner facing off against a horse that has beaten him twice in a row in the $6 million race that includes five runners trained by Bob Baffert.

The Classic won’t include Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming, Preakness winner Cloud Computing and Belmont winner Tapwrit.

Pacific Classic winner Collected, who handed Arrogate his last two losses, Whitney and Suburban winner Gun Runner, Ireland-bred Mubtaahij and Travers winner West Coast are among the 14 horses expected to run in the 1 1\4 mile Classic. The Nov. 4 race will be shown live in prime time on NBC.

The Classic field is among a total of 187 horses pre-entered Wednesday for the $28 million, 13-race Breeders’ Cup world championships at Del Mar spanning two days. The track north of San Diego is hosting the event for the first time.

A record 46 foreign horses were pre-entered, including a leading 14 by Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien. New York-based Chad Brown is second with 13 horses. Coolmore Stud leads all owners with 14 pre-entries.

Baffert is going for his fourth consecutive victory in the Classic, after winning the last three years with Bayern, Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and Arrogate. It would be a record if all five of his horses start in the Classic. Besides Arrogate and Collected, his other runners are Cupid, Mubtaahij and West Coast.

Final entries and the post-position draw will be Monday at Del Mar.

Besides Arrogate, there are eight returning or former champions pre-entered: Highland Reel, Drefong, Oscar Performance, Lady Eli, Champagne Room, Queen’s Trust, Finest City and Mongolian Saturday.

Ridden by Mike Smith, Arrogate will try to become the first horse since Tiznow in 2000-01 to win the Classic in consecutive years.

O’Brien’s two Classic entries are Churchill and War Decree.

Stellar Wind makes a third attempt at trying to win the $2 million Distaff at 1 1/8 miles. She was second in 2015 and fourth last year, and comes into this year’s edition undefeated in three Grade 1 starts.

U.S.-based horses have won five of the last six runnings of the $2 million Mile, and could do it again. World Approval, winner of four of five starts this year, takes on several European Group 1 winners.

The Classic winner will earn $3.3 million. For the second straight year, purses will be distributed down to the eighth-place finisher in all 13 races.

The event will open with four races on Nov. 3, followed by nine races on Nov. 4.

A maximum of 14 are allowed in each race, except the Dirt Mile, which is capped at 12. Seven of the races drew more than the allowable limits.

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.