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Noble Indy edges Lone Sailor in $1 million Louisiana Derby

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) Co-favorite Noble Indy settled near the front and held off a late charge by Lone Sailor to win the $1 million Louisiana Derby by a head at the Fair Grounds Race Course on Saturday.

Noble Indy and Bravazo both went off at 5-2 in what is one of the major prep races for the Kentucky Derby, but Bravazo faded after entering the final turn in third.

Trained by Todd Pletcher, Noble Indy earned 100 points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby, assuring qualification for the Triple Crown opener.

“This race was a big step in the right direction. I was pleased with the way he conducted himself,” Pletcher said of his horse. “He seems to be maturing as he gets more experience.”

Jockey John Velazquez steered Noble Indy into the lead entering the final turn and finished the 1 1/8-mile, Grade-2 stakes race in 1:50.28. He paid $7.40, $4.80 and $3.20.

“He’s very talented but he’s very green,” Velazquez said, adding that he didn’t want Noble Indy to run near the front as long as he did.

“I was a little afraid that he was a little too strong in the back stretch and not have anything down the lane,” Velazquez said.

But when Lone Sailor pulled alongside Noble-Indy, who was wearing blinkers, Velazquez said his horse “starting putting a good bite on the rein. I was glad he did.”

Lone Sailor was a sentimental favorite, racing one day after the jazz funeral of its owner, New Orleans Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson. The Tom Amoss-trained colt, with James Graham aboard, earned 40 points – likely enough to qualify for the Kentucky Derby – and paid $7.80 and $4.20. Morning line favorite My Boy Jack finished third in the 10-horse field and paid $3.20.

Lone Sailor represented the lone Kentucky Derby hopeful for GMB Racing, the stable established by Benson and his wife, Gayle. But he ran poorly in the Grade-3 Lecomte Stakes at the Fair Grounds in January.

This time, Amoss asked Graham to lay back and try to close strong, which is precisely what he did with a horse that went off at 9-1.

“We had a good feeling about this race today. He ran great,” Amoss said. “Look, the best horse probably won today. I won’t deny that. But our boy really stepped up and ran a great race and I’m very proud of him.

“I’m not going to get spiritual about this whole thing, but I will tell you this. I really felt like Mr. Benson was with us today,” Amoss added.

My Boy Jack, trained by Keith Desormeaux, now has 32 points. Part owner Sol Kumin of Monomoy Stables said the horse could run in the Arkansas Derby if he needs more points to earn a start at Churchill Downs on May 5.

“We’ll wait to see how he comes out and what Keith wants to do,” Kumin said. “In Keith we trust.”

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.