FAVORED HOPPERTUNITY SAVES GROUND AND WINS GRADE II, $200,000 SAN PASQUAL STAKES BY 1 ¾ LENGTHS; GARCIA & BAFFERT TEAM FOR WIN

 

ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 10, 2015)–Under a ground saving, patient ride from Martin Garcia, favored Hoppertunity rolled to an impressive 1 ¾ length win in Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes at Santa Anita as he negotiated 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.69. Well back off of fractions of 23.40, 46.35, 1:10.29, and 1:35.17, the Bob Baffert-conditioned Hoppertunity was fourth at the quarter pole and roared up the rail to take command a furlong out.

“He (Garcia) saved ground with him, he didn’t panic,” said Baffert, who got his fifth career San Pasqual win. “He rode a really smart race today, it was good…We had this race in mind. We know every race is going to be different, so we’ll just let him space his races out. He could show up anywhere–I don’t know yet.”

When asked if the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 7 would be considered, Baffert responded, “It could be. Anything’s a consideration. He’ll be nominated everywhere and we know he ships well.”

Off at 4-5 in a field of 11 older horses, Hoppertunity, who came off a career-best win in the Grade I Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on Nov. 28, paid $3.60, $2.80 and $2.40.

Owned by Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman, the 4-year-old colt by Any Given Saturday got his fourth win from eight starts and with the winner’s share of $120,000, pushed his earnings over the million dollar mark to $1,070,675.

A winner of last year’s Grade II Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park, Hoppertunity subsequently finished second behind California Chrome in the Santa Anita Derby.

“He’s a damn good horse,” said Pegram. “Martin had to use him to get a position and when he pushed the button, he went. This horse has proven he can ship, so we know he can travel and he likes it here. It’s nice to have options.”

Garcia, who was up for the Clark victory, has now won three races with Hoppertunity.

“I just let him break and I saved ground on the rail,” he said. “I knew they were going fast up front so I just had to wait. I expected that and more.”

In a driving finish, Appealing Tale, ridden by Victor Espinoza, finished second, a neck in front of Blue Tone. Off at 12-1, Appealing Tale paid $9.00 and $7.60.

Ridden by Kent Desormeaux, Blue Tone sparred with Big Cazanova on the lead and finished third, a half length in front of late running Tonito M. Off at 27-1, Blue Tone paid $8.60 to show.

First post time for a nine-race card on Sunday is at 12:30 p.m. Admission gates open at 10:30 a.m.

 

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