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Gunnevera wins $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot

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VINTON, La. — Once he got the lead, nobody was going to catch Gunnevera, who raced to victory in the $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot for 2-year-olds Saturday at Delta Downs Racetrack.

Ridden by three-time Eclipse Award winner Outstanding Jockey Javier Castellano, Gunnevera ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:45:15 and won by 5 3/4 lengths over Hot Sean. Gunnevera paid $7.80, $4.40 and 3.40.

“The race worked out perfectly for us,” Castellano. “When I asked him to go he went. This is a good horse who will develop. I think he will be better at the longer lengths.”

Gunnevera earned $600,000 and 10 points in the chase for the Kentucky Derby. The Delta Downs Jackpot is part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby Series which gives points to horses in selected races and is the second-richest race for 2-year-olds in North America behind only the Breeders’ Cup for Juveniles.

Bob Baffert trained Hot Sean ($5.40, $4.20) earned four points, and Dangerfield ($8) was third and picked up two points. J Boys Echo finished fourth and received the last point awarded.

Gunnevera needed a little time to get going but was in complete control down the stretch, pulling away from the field. Trained by Antonio Sano, Gunnevera made a winner out of relative racing newcomer Peacock Racing Stables.

“This is a great win for us,” co-owner Jaime Diaz said. “He exceeded our expectations with the way he ran. We think he is going to develop into a very fine horse but we have to wait and see.”

For Diaz and his partners, the victory was a big step in the direction they want to take their racing team.

“We are one of the little guys and we are trying to get where the big guys are,” Diaz said. “The only way you do that is to win and to win big races.”

Diaz said that he will let Sano decide on what path Gunnevera will take in the future.

“We have a great trainer and we trust him,” Diaz said. “This was a big step for us but there is still a long way to go.”

In only her second career start Shane’s Girlfriend won the $400,000 Delta Downs Princess Stakes for 2-year-old fillies. She was ridden by Flavien Prat.

What to know about the 151st Belmont Stakes

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Rogue riderless horse Bodexpress won’t make an appearance at the 2019 Belmont Stakes, but the 151st iteration of the race won’t be without major star power. Mark Casse‘s War of Will looks to claim the third jewel in the Triple Crown just three weeks after his 2019 Preakness Stakes win and a month removed from the 145th Kentucky Derby, where he was one of the horses most impacted by the disqualified first place finisher Maximum Security. The field is set to be a combination of Derby and Preakness horses, some of which have never met before—only fitting for a race known as the “Test of the Champion.”

What is the Belmont Stakes? The Belmont Stakes is the last leg of the American Triple Crown of horse racing. Like the Derby and the Preakness, it’s a Grade I Thoroughbred stakes races. The Belmont Stakes is 1 1/2 miles, or 12 furlongs, which makes it the longest race in the Triple Crown.

The Belmont is run on the dirt track (also known as “Big Sandy”) at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. It was first raced in 1867, making it the oldest jewel in the Triple Crown (and the fourth oldest race in North America). However, the race wasn’t run in 1911 or 1912, which is why the Kentucky Derby is still the longest continuous sporting event in the country. The Belmont always been run in or around New York City, having raced at Jerome Park (now closed), Morris Park (also closed) and Aqueduct in addition to Belmont, which is just east of Queens.

Aside from being the last hurdle for Triple Crown contenders, the Belmont is known for Secretariat’s 31-length victory in 1973, which sealed his Triple Crown title and set the current world record at 2:24 for 1 1/2 miles on dirt.

When is the 2019 Belmont Stakes? The 151st Belmont Stakes is on Saturday, June 8. Post time will be at approximately 6:50 p.m. ET.

What is unique about the Belmont Stakes? The Belmont is the final test for horses seeking a Triple Crown title. Horses have an additional week of rest between races as opposed to the Preakness, but the Belmont is also the longest race of the three.

Belmont Park is only a few miles away from New York City, and city dwellers can just hop on the Long Island Rail Road for a day at the races. The annual Belmont Festival features several days packed with racing and other events. This year, hip-hop artist Flo Rida will perform on June 8.

How can I watch the 2019 Belmont Stakes? NBC is home to the 151st Belmont Stakes, providing comprehensive race coverage and analysis live on TV and NBCSports.com before, during and after the main event. Get started with NBCSN on Friday, June 7 at 5 p.m. for the Belmont Gold Cup. NBCSN coverage continues on Saturday, June 8 at 2:30 p.m. before moving to NBC at 4 p.m. See the broadcast schedule here.

Who are the horses to watch?

  • 2019 Preakness winner War of Will could become just the 12th horse in history to lose in the Derby but come back to win both the Preakness and Belmont. The last horse to do this was Afleet Alex in 2005. “WOW” crossed the wire 8th at Churchill Downs and was elevated to 7th.
  • Trained by 2019 Kentucky Derby winner-trainer Bill Mott, the easy-to-spot gray horse Tacitus finished fourth in the Derby and was elevated to third.
  • Longshot Preakness runner up Everfast and third place finisher Owendale will look for redemption against War of Will.
  • Master Fencer was one of the biggest surprises of the 145th Kentucky Derby. Not only did he become the first Japan-bred horse to race in the Run for the Roses, but he defied expectations and finished 7th (elevated to 6th), crossing the wire ahead of fellow Belmont competitor War of Will.

Who won the 2018 Belmont Stakes? WinStar Farm’s colt Justify, trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Mike Smith, won the 150th Preakness Stakes to become the 13th-ever Triple Crown winner.

What comes next? NBC Sports is home to all things Breeders’ Cup and will have comprehensive coverage from Santa Anita on Friday, Nov. 2 and Saturday, Nov. 3. Qualifying races for the 2020 Kentucky Derby will start back up in the late winter and early spring of next year on NBCSN. Racing fans can also hope for a competitor in Gary West‘s $5 million challenge to the horses impeded by Maximum Security that they can’t beat him in a race.

3rd horse in 9 days dies at Santa Anita

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ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) Santa Anita had its third horse death in nine days when a gelding pulled up during a race and was euthanized.

Twenty-six horses have died in racing or training at the Southern California track since Dec. 26.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Kochees sustained an injury to its left front leg in a 5 1/2-furlong race Saturday.

Kochees was taken off the course with a splint. The newspaper says during surgery Sunday it was determined that the 9-year-old horse had lost blood flow to the leg and the decision was made to euthanize.

Santa Anita is scheduled to host the Breeders’ Cup Nov. 1-2. It’s considered the biggest two-day event in U.S. horse racing.