HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Todd Pletcher worked his Arkansas Derby magic once again, this time in the most unexpected fashion.
The six-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer added to his record haul at Oaklawn Park on Saturday, earning his fourth win in the Derby thanks to a surprising victory by long shot Danza.
The colt, named after actor Tony Danza, went off at 40-1 in the 1-1/8-mile Kentucky Derby prep race - pulling away in the homestretch to shock a star-packed field. He won the $1 million race by 4-3/4 lengths, finishing in 1 minute, 49.68 seconds.
Pletcher won the Arkansas Derby last year with Overanalyze, which was a then-record third time.
The former assistant to D. Wayne Lukas added to his record with a fourth win in the race, and it's the second time he has won in back-to-back years - after also winning in 2000 with Graeme Hall and 2001 with Balto Star.
Ridden by Joe Bravo, Danza paid $84.60, $28.40 and $11 and earned 100 points in the Kentucky Derby standings. Ride on Curlin returned $7 and $4, and prerace favorite and Bayern paid $4 to show.
MORE HORSES: Dance With Fate gave trainer Peter Eurton and the colt's owners a nice dilemma in the $750,000 stakes race in Louisville, Ky,, charging past Pablo Del Monte for the victory and a spot in the Kentucky Derby field - if the brain trust wants it.
The decision isn't that simple, even though the Florida-bred colt made a convincing case toward being in the 140th Run for the Roses on May 3 at Churchill Downs.
"I just don't know," Eurton said. "It's three weeks (away) and kind of quick back. I know he loves synthetic (tracks) better, (likes) turf. I just don't know if he likes dirt.''
Pablo Del Monte and race favorite Bobby's Kitten set the pace before Dance With Fate began moving through the pack with Medal Count in tow. The winner eventually surged past Pablo Del Monte in the final furlong to beat Medal Count by 1-3/4 lengths, earning his first graded stakes victory and 100 points toward Derby qualifying. Dance With Fate ran 1-1/8 in 1:50.06 and paid $14.80, $6.80 and $5.80.
TRIPLE DEAD HEAT: There was a triple dead heat for first in a race at Evangeline Downs in Opelousas, La., a finish so rare there have been just six since 1990. Three horses hit the wire together in the fifth race Friday night at the Louisiana track. The official photograph showed all three horses' noses touching the wire, so a triple dead-heat was declared by the stewards. Chessie Slew, a 25-1 long shot, 5-1 shot All in the Art and 8-1 shot Memories of Trina shared the victory in the $15,000, six-furlong claiming race.
* * *
Arsenal foils Wigan's FA Cup upset bid
Arsenal reached the FA Cup final by defeating Wigan 2-1 in a penalty shootout at Wembley Stadium.
Arsenal's Per Mertesacker scored in the 82nd minute to force extra time at 1-1. The Gunners won the shootout 4-2 to keep alive its hopes of winning the team's first major trophy since 2005.
Wigan was bidding to become the first team in 34 years to win the FA Cup while playing in a second-tier league.
Hull plays Sheffield United in the second semifinal today.
PREMIER LEAGUE: Everton moved above Arsenal into fourth place after beating host Sunderland 1-0. The league's top four teams qualify for the Champions League. Sunderland defender Wes Brown put the ball into his own net in the 75th minute after failing to control a cross from Everton's Gerard Deulofeu.
GERMAN LEAGUE: Bayern Munich lost 3-0 to Borussia, but Bayern already clinched its league title and was preparing for a Champions League semifinal against Real Madrid.
MLS: Commissioner Don Garber, 56, is being treated for prostate cancer, and doctors expect him to make a full recovery
* * *
TENNIS:Fernando Verdasco beat Santiago Giraldo 6-4, 7-5, and Nicolas Almagro advanced when Sam Querrey pulled out because of a back injury in the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championship semifinals at Houston. Almagro reached the final for the second straight year. He lost the 2013 final to Tampa resident John Isner. ... Richard Gasquet has pulled out of the Monte Carlo Masters after failing to shake off a back injury. Gasquet also missed France's Davis Cup quarterfinal win against Germany last weekend.