Karl Watson, Michael Pegram and Paul Weitsman's Hoppertunity scored his second consecutive victory in the G2 San Antonio Stakes, rallying from last to win by a length over stablemate Mor Spirit. Under the expert guide of jockey Flavien Prat, the 6-year-old son of Any Given Saturday covered the abbreviated 1 1/16-mile distance of the San Antonio in 1:42.55 over Santa Anita's fast main track. Trainer Bob Baffert has now won five of the last eight runnings of the San Antonio.
“He was training really, really well for this,” Baffert said. “It's like the best I've ever seen him train. Prat worked him the other day and the track was really fast. He went 10 and four (Jan. 30). I was afraid they went too fast but they were doing it the right way.”
El Huerfano got the first call out of the starting gates, but he was joined by Mor Spirit and Avanti Bello almost immediately. El Huerfano pushed away to lead by a length, setting fractions of :23.18 and :46.30 for the early going. Avanti Bello held second by a half-length over Mor Spirit, with a three-length gap back to Accelerate, and another three lengths back to Hard Aces and Dalmore, with Hoppertunity bringing up the rear. Mid-way down the backstretch Hoppertunity started to make up ground along the rail, but he had a lot of work to do when turning for home.
Mor Spirit took over from El Huerfano at the top of the lane, and looked to be an easy winner. But the classy old Hoppertunity had the wire in his sights in the center of the track, and burst home with an impressive turn of foot to win by about a length. Mor Spirit had to settle for second, with Accelerate just getting up to beat El Huerfano for third.
“Everyone knows this horse,” laughed Prat. “He ran a great race. I think he may be better than he was last year. He seems better.”
Bred in Kentucky by Betz, D.J. Stable, Kidder, J. Betz, and Robenalt, Hoppertunity was a $300,000 yearling purchase at the Keeneland September sale. He has competed in all the major races, from the Breeders' Cup to the Dubai World Cup, and finally earned his first Grade 1 win in last year's Jockey Club Gold Cup. Overall, Hoppertunity boasts a record of 7-6-4 from 25 starts, with earnings of just over $4 million.
“That was the plan all along,” Baffert continued. “This horse has made so much money just picking up here and there (now $4,066,425). I don't know what I'm going to do with Mor Spirit. We're going to play it by ear but today was a good race for him. He was part of that pace up front and they were going pretty fast . . . I think he'll move forward because he's a big, heavy horse. He did a lot of running early and he got beat by a Grade I horse that's made four million dollars. It was a good race.”
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