Chaos, upset on final major weekend of Kentucky Derby preps

ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) – There was chaos on the Kentucky Derby trail Saturday, with bumping down the stretch and close finishes from coast-to-coast on the last weekend of major prep races before the Triple Crown begins next month.

The winners were separated by a mere quarter-length.

Practical Move held off Japan’s Mandarin Hero by a nose to win the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby in California. At Keeneland, Tapit Trice won the $1 million Blue Grass by a neck over Verifying. At Aqueduct, 59-1 shot Lord Miles survived an inquiry to win the $750,000 Wood Memorial by a nose in New York.

Each of the winners earned 100 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby, which puts the trio in the field of 20 horses on May 6.

Trainer Tim Yakteen won the Santa Anita Derby for the second straight year, this time with a horse he developed.

“It’s a great feeling to go back-to-back in this race,” Yakteen said. “The rush you get, that’s why you get in the game.”

Last year, he won with Taiba, who was trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert but moved to Yakteen’s barn because Baffert was serving a two-year ban by Churchill Downs Inc. Yakteen also had another Baffert horse, National Treasure, who finished fourth on Saturday.

But Practical Move is all Yakteen’s. The colt was coming off a decisive win in last month’s San Felipe Stakes. He had to work a lot harder Saturday.

Practical Move was third after a half-mile and then drifted out a bit in the final furlongs, but fought off Mandarin Hero.

“I thought we got him at the wire,” said Kazushi Kimura, Mandarin Hero’s jockey. “Today he was a totally different horse. He was very aggressive in company. It looks like we’ll be headed to the Kentucky Derby.”

Ridden by Ramon Vazquez, Practical Move ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.69. Sent off as the 4-5 favorite, the 3-year-old colt paid $4, $3 and $2.20.

Mandarin Hero returned $6.60 and $4. Skinner was another half-length back in third.

At Keeneland, Tapit Trice and Verifying dueled through the final furlongs with Verifying’s jockey Tyler Gaffalione claiming foul for interference in the stretch. The stewards did not change the order of finish.

“I feel like he (Verifying) came out and touched my horse to try to get a foul,” winning jockey Luis Saez said.

Trained by Todd Pletcher, Tapit Trice ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.00 to earn his fourth consecutive victory. The colt paid $5.28 to win. Pletcher also has the likely Derby favorite with Forte.

Blazing Sevens was another 5 3/4 lengths back in third.

At Aqueduct, Lord Miles, 8-5 favorite Hit show and Dreamlike were bouncing off each other in the stretch, with second-place jockey Manny Franco claiming foul to go with a stewards’ inquiry for interference. But no changes were made.

“The one (Dreamlike) came out and Franco (aboard Hit Show) was looking for room and so he bumped into my horse,” winning jockey Paco Lopez said. “My horse stayed in line all the time and stayed fighting for the line. It was a tight race.”

Franco believes the contact cost him the victory.

“I was right in between those horses like a ping pong ball. They hit me on both sides,” he said.

Lord Miles ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.17 and paid $120.50 to win. Trained by Saffie Joseph Jr., the colt is a son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin.

“At the eighth pole, I was thinking go get second and then, wait a minute, and there it was,” Joseph said. “He was a horse we thought a lot of and he showed up today when it counted most.”

The lone remaining Derby prep is next weekend’s Lexington Stakes at Keeneland, which offers 20 points to the winner.


AP Sports Writer Gary B. Graves in Lexington, Kentucky, contributed to this report.


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