Twilight Payment wins Melbourne Cup with no fans at track

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) The race that stops a nation also saw tens of thousands of spectators prevented from watching one of the biggest single-day sporting events in Australia.

Like a familiar refrain in 2020, blame COVID-19.

Irish-bred Twilight Payment, ridden by Jye McNeil and trained by Irishman Joseph O’Brien, gave Australian Lloyd Williams his seventh win in the 3,200-meter (2-mile) classic at Flemington race track.

Twilight Payment led virtually the entire race. Tiger Moth was second by about half a length and Britain’s Prince of Arran third for the third consecutive year.

Tiger Moth was trained by Joseph O’Brien’s father, Aidan. The younger O’Brien won his first Melbourne Cup in 2017 when Rekindling beat Johannes Vermeer, trained by his father.

“Just too many emotions, a very good moment,” McNeil said after crossing the line in first. “All my family watching from home, unfortunately they couldn’t be here. But I’m not worried about the empty grandstands at all. This has been a dream of mine since Day One.”

It was the first time in the race first held in 1861 that the race was held without spectators. Flemington often attracts a crowd of up to 100,000 on Melbourne Cup day, and last year there were 81,000 in attendance.

But COVID-19 restrictions relaxed only last weekend due to a huge spoke in second-save infections in Victoria state didn’t extend to large crowd sizes. So the Flemington race course was restricted to jockeys, trainers and essential track workers on Tuesday.

Arabian Knight off Kentucky Derby trail; will return later

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Arabian Knight is off the Kentucky Derby trail.

Wagering has been suspended on the 3-year-old colt for the Derby’s future wager after owner Amr Zedan announced the decision. Arabian Knight was the second choice on the morning line behind favorite Forte for the May 6 race.

“Trainer Tim Yakteen wasn’t happy with his last work & we feel it’s in Arabian Knight’s best interest not to rush & allow him more time to develop,” Zedan tweeted. “We know he’s a superior talent & our plan is to point him toward a summer and fall campaign.”

Purchased for $2.3 million as a 2-year-old, Arabian Knight won his debut by 7 1/4 lengths at Keeneland last November. He made his 3-year-old debut in the Southwest at Oaklawn in January and won by 5 1/2 lengths.

Arabian Knight had his third workout at Santa Anita.

Tapit Trice wins Tampa Bay Derby, earns Kentucky Derby points

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TAMPA, Fla. — Tapit Trice rallied from last to win the $360,000 Tampa Bay Derby by two lengths and earn qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby.

Ridden by Luis Saez, Tapit Trice ran 1 1/16 miles 1:43.37. The 1-2 favorite in the field of 12 paid $3 to win. The 3-year-old colt earned 50 qualifying points, which places him in the 20-horse field for the Kentucky Derby on May 6.

Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher extended his record for most wins in the Grade 3 race to six. He already has the early Kentucky Derby favorite in Forte, who won the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream last weekend.

Classic Car Wash was second and Classic Legacy was another 1 1/4 lengths back in third.

Tapit Trice was making his stakes debut after winning two of three starts.

“Once he got clear down the lane, he really extended himself,” Pletcher said. ”I loved the way he finished up. He relished the two turns, and the longer he goes, the better he’ll get.”