ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 4, 2017)–Bob Baffert’s veteran 6-year-old Hoppertunity successfully defended his title in the Grade II, $300,000 San Antonio Stakes Saturday as he rallied from last to overhaul stablemate Mor Spirit by one length in deep stretch while getting 1 1/16 miles under Flavien Prat in 1:42.55.
Fresh off the best year of his distinguished career, Hoppertunity had been idle since running a disappointing fourth in the Grade I Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on Nov. 25.
“He was training really, really well for this,” said Baffert. “It’s like the best I’ve ever seen him train. Prat worked him the other day and the track was really fast. He (worked six furlongs) in 1:10 and four (fifths). I was afraid they went too fast but they were doing it the right way…Hoppertunity, he just grinded it out, came running and I’m happy for the Pegram, Watson and Weitman team. This horse has been a lot of fun for them.
“There’s nothing like having a good horse. That’s why we’re in the business, so as long as he’s doing well, we’ll go to Dubai (for the Dubai World Cup March 25) and see if we can get another win. That was the plan all along…”
Off at 5-2 in a field of seven older horses, the full horse by Any Given Saturday paid $7.00, $3.40 and $2.20. Owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, Hoppertunity improved his overall mark to 25-7-6-4. With the winner’s share of $180,000, he pushed past the $4 million mark, running his earnings to $4,066,425.
“Everyone knows this horse,” said Prat, who was aboard for last year’s San Antonio win and who hadn’t ridden Hoppertunity since running fourth behind California Chrome in the Grade I Pacific Classic four starts back on Aug. 20. “He ran a great race. I think he may be better than he was last year. He seems better.
“He’s always slow out of the gate, he’ll never be fast and he likes to come from off the pace. Once he starts running, you just have to let him run and do his thing. The worst part for me, is the first part of the race, because I have to ask him. But then he just takes you to the wire.” (The San Antonio win marked Prat’s third consecutive win on the Saturday card).
Baffert’s Mor Spirit, who finished fourth in the Grade I Malibu Stakes going seven furlongs on Dec. 26, had the look of a horse who would step forward today stretching out, but he couldn’t match strides with the winner inside the sixteenth pole and had to settle for second, finishing three quarters of a length in front of Accelerate.
Ridden by Mike Smith, Mor Spirit was off as the 9-5 favorite and paid $3.40 and $2.40.
Fourth after a half mile under Tyler Baze, Accelerate had no apparent excuses while running third, a head in front of early pacesetter El Huerfano. Off at 5-2, Accelerate paid $2.20 to show.
Fractions on the race were 23.18, 46.30, 1:10.39 and 1:36.18.
NOTE: Prat would go on to win his fourth consecutive race of the day in the following race, as he took the Grade II San Marcos Stakes, run as Saturday’s ninth and final event, aboard the George Weaver-trained Isotherm, who paid $17.20, $10.40 and $7.20.