Racing’s Hall of Fame might do well to have a private wing for Bob Baffert’s runners,

both current and recent vintage.

Arrogate, Abel Tasman, Collected, Drefong, Mor Spirit, Mubtaahij and West Coast come presently to mind, as does member-in-waiting American Pharoah, who ended a 37-year-old drought by capturing racing’s elusive Triple Crown in 2015.

And then there’s Hoppertunity.

A superstar in any other barn, Hoppertunity is the sixth man on Baffert’s varsity of world-class equine starters.

A six-year-old full horse by Any Given Saturday, Hoppertunity runs for the first time since finishing sixth by 10 ¾ lengths behind stablemate Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup last March 25, when he goes postward in Saturday’s Comma to the Top Stakes, a modest gig for three-year-olds and up at a flat mile offering $70,000 in purse money.

Baffert also has entered Donegal Racing’s Irish Freedom, a three-year-old son of Pioneerof the Nile making his first start in four months.

The Comma to the Top likely is a steppingstone for Hoppertunity, winner of more than $4.2 million in a 26-race career that has resulted in seven wins, six seconds and four thirds.

Even though Baffert is on record as saying the bay Kentucky-bred owned by long-time clients Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman is better suited for races at longer distances, the Hall of Fame trainer hopes the Comma to the Top is a starting point.

“Irish Freedom had a nice win last out on Aug. 13 (winning by 5 ¼ lengths at Del Mar), but he’s been off because the race took a little bit out of him,” Baffert said. “He’s working well now, though, and hopefully he’s getting better with age.

“We would have liked to run him in the Breeders’ Cup (Dirt) Mile but it might have been a bit tough for him, so this is a good start back.

“One thing about Hopper: he is a good horse. He’s got a lot of class behind him, he’s doing really well. He’s a barn favorite. He’s been around forever. Old Hopper, it seems like he’s been here for 10 years, but he’s come back really well, and after this, I’m thinking maybe the Clark at Churchill Downs (Nov. 24) and then maybe another run at Dubai (March 31, 2018). Last year he didn’t run very well. I don’t know why; I thought he would.”

The field for the Comma to the Top, formerly run as the Big Bear Stakes: The Lieutenant, Victor Espinoza; Top of the Game, Kent Desormeaux; Irish Freedom, Rafael Bejarano; Hoppertunity, Flavien Prat; El Huerfano, Corey Nakatani; Curlin Rules, Drayden Van Dyke; and Avanti Bello, Evin Roman.



Phil D’Amato, still in the hunt for leading trainer honors with four days left in the 19-day Autumn Meet, trailing leader Richard Baltas, 9-6, sends out two three-year-olds in Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 Twilight Derby at 1 1/8 miles on turf: Bowies Hero, a three-time stakes winner on grass, and Troublewithatee, winner of two straight but making his stakes debut.

Bowies Hero was third last out, beaten only a length in a four-wide bid in the Grade II Del Mar Derby Sept. 3, the rider losing his whip en route. Troublewithatee, a gelded son of Into Mischief, won his last two outs by a head each time, at a mile and a mile and an eighth, respectively, under Corey Nakatani who retains the mount.

Kent Desormeaux rides Bowies Hero for the first time.

“Desormeaux is about as good as there is riding on the grass,” D’Amato allowed. “He’s superb, so we’re trying him on Bowie to see if he can make up that length on the other contenders. The horse is doing really well.

“This marks the first stakes for Troublewithatee, but he’s won two in a row after being gelded, and to me, he’s a horse on the improve. I like horses that have won on this turf course this meet.

“Some horses really like it and some don’t, and he’s one that does, so we’re going to see if we can make it three in a row.”


The field: Cistron, Tyler Baze, 20-1; Cowboy Culture, Florent Geroux, 6-1; Big Score, Flavien Prat, 4-1; Bowies Hero, Kent Desormeaux, 5-1; Just Howard, Fergal Lynch, 4-1; Sharp Samurai, Gary Stevens, 7-2; Troublewithatee, Corey Nakatani, 20-1; Channel Maker, Drayden Van Dyke, 10-1; Profiteer, Mike Smith, 6-1; Dangerfield, Kyle Frey, 50-1; and Ann Arbor Eddie, Mario Gutierrez, 20-1.



            Undefeated Breeders’ Cup Juvenile favorite Bolt d’Oro will have his final major workout Sunday, 7:45 a.m., for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 4. Owner/trainer Mick Ruis said the $630,000 son of Medaglia d’Oro will breeze five furlongs under regular rider Corey Nakatani, walk at Santa Anita Monday, then ship south Tuesday for the Big Dance.

Bolt d’Oro worked five furlongs last Sunday under Nakatani in 1:01.40.

In other Breeders’ Cup news:

Bargain claim Skye Diamonds (Filly & Mare Sprint) worked six furlongs on Santa Anita’s training track at 7:15 Thursday in 1:16.20 under Tiago Pereira for Bill Spawr.

Expressing satisfaction of her fitness to date, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said Unique Bella, favored to win the seven furlong Filly & Mare Sprint, may not have another major work for the race on Nov. 4.

The gray daughter of Tapit worked five furlongs at Santa Anita Wednesday in a bullet 59.20, fastest of 30 drills at the distance. Also Wednesday, Hollendorfer sent Battle of Midway (Dirt Mile) six furlongs in a bullet 1:12.80, and Grade I winner It Tiz Well (Distaff on Nov. 3) six furlongs in 1:15. Roy H (Sprint) went five furlongs Wednesday for Peter Miller in 1:03.


FINISH LINES: Thoroughbred owner Gino Roncelli and Harvey Ross Jr., winner of $529,000 in Santa Anita’s single ticket Pick Six Jackpot Pick 6 on an $80 ticket, will be Tom Quigley‘s guests Saturday and Sunday, 11:05 a.m. and 11:20 a.m., respectively, in the East Paddock Gardens. First post time for Saturday’s 11-race program is 12:15 p.m. . . . Through closing day Sunday, just in time for Halloween, Santa Anita offers a Pumpkin Festival in the Family Fun Zone featuring an Infield full of activities. Inflatable jumpers, face painting, carnival games, pony rides, a playground and a chance to meet the immortal “Seabiscuit” are part of the package which can be purchased online at at a discount.


(Current Through Sunday, Oct. 22)
Jockey Mts 1st 2nd 3rd Win% ITM% Money Won
Evin Roman 93 13 10 15 14% 41% $397,386
Kent Desormeaux 48 12 6 3 25% 44% $687,161
Tyler Baze 85 11 14 10 13% 41% $615,096
Corey Nakatani 33 9 2 3 27% 42% $485,450
Rafael Bejarano 52 8 9 5 15% 42% $416,720
Drayden Van Dyke 54 8 2 4 15% 26% $488,800
Flavien Prat 84 7 18 17 8% 50% $1,039,027
Stewart Elliott 42 7 5 3 17% 36% $216,973
Tiago Pereira 55 6 5 1 11% 22% $236,150
Gary Stevens 27 6 3 3 22% 44% $224,350
Joseph Talamo 49 5 9 9 10% 47% $415,206
Santiago Gonzalez 39 5 5 5 13% 38% $179,130
Trainer Mts 1st 2nd 3rd Win% ITM% Money Won
Richard Baltas 45 9 7 2 20% 40% $339,268
Peter Miller 41 8 3 5 20% 39% $463,685
Philip D’Amato 43 6 11 5 14% 51% $393,000
Vladimir Cerin 19 6 4 1 32% 58% $154,080
Mark Glatt 32 5 6 3 16% 44% $193,081
Richard Mandella 20 5 4 3 25% 60% $490,725
Jerry Hollendorfer 34 5 3 8 15% 47% $238,820
Peter Eurton 25 5 3 3 20% 44% $181,323
J. Keith Desormeaux 25 4 2 4 16% 40% $240,710
Mick Ruis 18 4 2 0 22% 33% $260,050
Neil Drysdale 17 4 1 5 24% 59% $166,130