Hoppertunity kicked off 2017 with a stellar performance in Saturday's $300,000 San Antonio S. (G2) at Santa Anita Park, the second straight win in the race for the Bob Baffert trainee and sixth graded stakes victory in the 6-year-old's career.
Baffert finished 1-2 in the San Antonio, with Mor Spirit battling gamely to a second-place finish, one length behind the winner.
The win was the sixth San Antonio for Baffert and also pushed Hoppertunity's lifetime earnings past the $4 million milestone. With plans to run him next in the $10 million Dubai World Cup (G1), a race he finished third in last year, his earnings could soar even further.
But for Saturday, the focus was on the San Antonio, Hoppertunity's first start since late November in the Clark H. (G1) at Churchill Downs. After coming away in no hurry, Hoppertunity was at the back of the seven-horse field through a half-mile in :46.30. Going into the final turn, he began to close ground, going between and then around horses coming into the stretch.
Mor Spirit, who had taken over the top spot with a quarter mile to run, was determined on the lead, but Hoppertunity showed all his class and took over late to get the 1 1/16-miles in 1:42.55.
Baffert praised both his runners after their exacta finish.
“He was training really, really well for this,” the trainer commented.
“I was really happy about Mor Spirit. I thought for sure turning for home he was going to win it. But Hoppertunity, he just grinded it out, came running, and I’m happy for the (owners) Pegram, Watson and Weitman team. So as long as he’s doing well we’ll go to Dubai (World Cup, March 25) and see if we can get (the) win.
“That was the plan all along. (Hoppertunity) 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 did a lot of running early and he got beat by a Grade One horse that’s made four million dollars.”
Owned by Baffert's long-time partners Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, Hoppertunity is now 7-6-4 in 24 starts, with a pair of Grade 1 wins in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) and Clark H. (G1).