California Chrome wins Dubai World Cup by 5 lengths

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) California Chrome proved in emphatic fashion he was back at his best when he won the Dubai World Cup by five lengths on Saturday.

Second on his debut last year in the world’s richest horse race, the Art Sherman-trained Chrome went one better under jockey Victor Espinoza, despite the saddle slipping way down his back near the end.

By then, the five-year-old U.S. stallion was way out front, having come round wide on the final turn and accelerating with 400 meters to go in the 2,000-meter race on dirt.

“I wasn’t that concerned about (the saddle),” Espinoza, who rode American Pharaoh to the U.S. Triple Crown last year, said, “I just kept looking forward and thinking, `Where’s the wire?’ It was not coming fast enough.

“Today, it proves how he can run when he’s 100 percent. He felt strong during the prep. He won easy.”

Chrome, the heavy favorite for the second straight year, started from an unfavorable Stall 11 but was quickly in stride and, even though he ran wide the whole time, placed himself next to Msawish, who took the early lead under Frankie Dettori.

“He likes to be on the outside,” Sherman said. “I just told Victor to get him in a position to win, if you have to lose ground, so be it.

“It’s the dream of a lifetime for me, it doesn’t get better. The Chromies (fans) will be going crazy (back home).”

The Mike de Kock-trained Mubtaahij of Ireland was second, followed by Hopportunity of the U.S.

California Chrome was the 2014 American horse of the year for winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, but didn’t race for 10 months last year because of a bruised bone.

He began his comeback at Santa Anita in January, when he also arrived in the Emirates to acclimate. This was his third straight win, worth $10 million.

Sherman said Chrome would be heading home, unlike last year when he was taken to England.

“I don’t think he’ll go to England,” he said. “We’ll give him 30 days at the farm to let him unwind, and the ultimate goal is the Breeders’ Cup (in November at Santa Anita).”

Earlier, in the Group 1 Dubai Turf, a $6 million turf race over 1,800 meters, Japan’s Real Steel produced a burst over the last 150 meters to rein and pass British leader Euro Charline, ridden by Frankie Dettori. Pre-race favourite, Godolphin’s Tryster, finished third.

“He’s got lots of quality,” Real Steel jockey Ryan Moore said. “It was a big effort from him, he had a tough trip, and was out wide but has toughed it out. He never runs a bad race.”

American horse Postponed won the Dubai Sheema Classic, the Group 1 turf race over 2,410 meters.

Postponed was in the middle of the pack, trailing leaders Duramente and Last Impact, when jockey Andrea Atzeni unleashed Postponed to finish in style, winning by nearly two lengths over his Japanese rival Duramente.

Champion trainer Doug Watson finally tasted glory in the Dubai World Cup when the American completed a clean sweep of the podium in the Godolphin Mile, a 1,600-meter Group 2 race. Irish horse One Man Band won the race, followed by Cool Boy and Faulkner.

Newgate wins Robert B. Lewis Stakes; Baffert runs 1-2-3-4

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ARCADIA, Calif. — Newgate won the $200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes by a neck, with Bob Baffert as the trainer of all four horses in the Kentucky Derby prep race at Santa Anita.

Ridden by Frankie Dettori, Newgate ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.11 and paid $4 and $2.60 as the even-money favorite. There was no show wagering because of the field size.

Hard to Figure returned $5.20 at 12-1 odds. Worcester was another 1 3/4 lengths back in third. Arabian Lion was fourth.

“So much improvement in all these horses,” Baffert said. “I was actually nervous before the race, worried that something weird might happen, but I can relax now.”

The Lewis was a Kentucky Derby prep race, but no points were awarded because Baffert has been banned for two years by Churchill Downs Inc. The Hall of Fame trainer was in Louisville to testify in federal court as he seeks a temporary injunction to end the suspension, which runs through the end of the upcoming spring meet. It was meted out following a failed drug test by Medina Spirit after the colt finished first in the 2021 Kentucky Derby.

Newgate earned his first graded stakes victory. The colt was second, beaten by a neck in the Sham Stakes last month in his previous start.

“Frankie Dettori has been teaching him how to just sit back, relax and come with a punch and that’s what he did today,” Baffert said.

The victory, worth $120,000, increased Newgate’s career earnings to $241,975, with two wins in six starts.

Baffert: 2-year Churchill Downs suspension hurt reputation

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Churchill Downs never gave advance notice nor reached out to explain its two-year suspension, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said in federal court, and reiterated that the penalty has caused irreparable harm to his business and reputation.

Baffert has sued the historic track and is seeking a temporary injunction to stop his suspension following a failed drug test by the now-deceased Medina Spirit after the colt came in first in the 2021 Kentucky Derby.

The suspension for a series of failed tests by his horses runs through the end of the upcoming spring meet and could exclude Baffert from the Derby for a second consecutive spring.

Almost a year ago, Kentucky racing officials disqualified Medina Spirit and suspended Baffert for 90 days for those failed tests. Churchill Downs elevated Derby runner-up Mandaloun to winner.

“They’ve hurt my reputation,” Baffert said during nearly two hours of testimony in U.S. District Court. “My horses should’ve made much more money. I didn’t run for 90 days, and I had to let people go.”

Churchill Downs wants the case dismissed, citing nine failed tests by Baffert-trained horses as justification for disciplining horse racing’s most visible figure. The list of violators includes 2020 Kentucky Oaks third-place finisher Gamine, who was ultimately disqualified.

Medina Spirit failed his test for having in his system the corticosteroid betamethasone, which Baffert and attorney Clark Brewster have argued came from an ointment rather than an injection.

Track president Mike Anderson said the decision by Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen stemmed from Baffert’s “refusal to take responsibility for repeat violations” during a news conference at his backside barn after Medina Spirit’s failed test was revealed.

“We wanted to make a statement that this was a consequence of not doing the right thing,” Anderson said.

Attorneys Matt Benjamin and Christine Demana, who are representing Churchill Downs, also disputed Baffert’s contention that business has suffered by noting his latest crop of promising 3-year-old colts on this year’s Derby trail.

One of them, Arabian Knight, won last week’s Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn by 5+ lengths to give Baffert his record sixth win in the race. The horse is ineligible to earn Kentucky Derby qualifying points as the winner because of Baffert’s suspension.

A slide presented also showed that Baffert horses made 477 starts from May 10, 2021, through December 2022 and won marquee races such as the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (Corniche, the Eclipse winner) along with Grade 1 wins in the Pennsylvania Derby and Malibu Stakes (Taiba).

Friday’s 3 1/2-hour hearing followed four hours of testimony on Thursday. District Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings gave no indication when she would rule. But Brewster said he expects a decision “within several days.”

Baffert testified that he had had a good relationship with Churchill Downs, though he noted that he was paying for his seats at the track and having to “grovel” to get them. He also insisted that he tried to be a good ambassador for horse racing, especially after American Pharoah and Justify won the Triple Crown in 2015 and 2018, respectively.

“I think today was great because I finally got to tell my story in a nonbiased atmosphere,” he said. “I hope for the best, and hopefully we’ll be here.”