An unsung hero in the Bob Baffert stable over six racing seasons, 7-year-old Hoppertunity made his 30th career start a virtual walk in Santa Anita Park as he took Sunday's Grade III, $100,000 Tokyo City Cup by 6 ½ lengths. Ridden by Flavien Prat, “Hop” negotiated a marathon mile and one half in 2:32.63.
With longshot Beaumarchais setting quick fractions for the distance, Hoppertunity pulled Prat into second position, three quarters of a length off the lead at the half mile pole and set sail for home heading into the far turn in a virtual cakewalk.
“I knew they were going pretty quick, but I just rode my race,” said Prat, who was aboard the full horse by Any Given Saturday for a fourth place finish going 1 1/16 miles in the Grade II San Antonio Stakes on Dec. 26. “When we turned down the backside, he grabbed the bit and he wanted to go. He's a cool horse. He can run any distance, he's just a pro.”
Off at 1-5 in a field of six older horses, Hoppertunity, who is owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, paid $2.40, $2.20 and $2.10. In his first ever start at a mile and one half, improved his overall mark to 30-8-7-5 and with the winner's share of $60,000, increased his bankroll to $4,407,025.
“This horse really needed a win badly, he's been going against all of these really tough horses the last couple of years,” said Baffert, in reference to the fact Hoppertunity had been winless in four starts since taking the Grade II San Antonio on Feb. 4, 2017. “Sometimes, you do this, show them a win, and you can see a change. I could see he was really enjoying himself…
“I'm not sure where we'll go with him. There's the Gold Cup (Grade I, $500,000, mile and a quarter on May 26) and there's a race on Belmont Day…so we'll spot him and just have fun with him. He is a barn favorite, everyone loves Hopper. You can tell the crowd was getting into it.”
Last early, Twentytwentyvision checked in second, 5 ¼ lengths clear of Moonman. Ridden by Tyler Baze, Twentytwentyvision was off at 7-1 and paid $3.80 and $2.60.
The longest shot in the field at 38-1 with Drayden Van Dyke, Moonman paid $5.40 to show.
Fractions on the race were 24.64, 48.77, 1:14.42, 1:40.77 and 2:06.78.
Racing resumes with a three-day week on Friday, with first post time at 12 noon. For additional information, please visit www.santaanita.com.
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