Battling side-by-side with Imperative in the final sixteenth-mile, Hoppertunity got his nose down on the wire just in front of his rival to earn victory in Saturday’s $500,000 San Antonio S. (G2) at Santa Anita Park.
Bob Baffert, who won back-to-back runnings of the San Antonio in 2012-2013 with Game On Dude, has now won the 1 1/8-mile race a total of five times.
It took a long look at the official photo by the placing judges before Hoppertunity was assured of the win. Well off the pace early, Hoppertunity went very wide on the far turn and into the stretch before kicking into gear under Flavian Prat. He reeled in Donworth, who had the lead in mid-stretch, and then was all out in the final strides as Imperative was rolling on his outside. The duo hit the wire as one, with Hoppertunity getting the advantageous head-bob on the wire.
“I thought I did (get the photo), but I didn’t want to move,” said Baffert. “When we were looking, I thought he got it. I thought Hoppertunity had his head down at the right time. It was a great run. He always comes flying late.”
Hoppertunity, who has lost some heartbreakers over the past year, got his first win since taking the San Pasqual S. (G2) 13 months ago. The 5-year-old now has four graded stakes win and has earned $1,872,675 for Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman.
Plans for Hoppertunity include a run in next month’s $10 million Dubai World Cup. (G1).
“It was a good prep for him for Dubai (World Cup),” said Baffert. “I just told Flavien, ‘His first jump, he needs a little help leaving there.’ After that, it’s just a matter of if he gets up or not. This was a good day for us.”
Baffert was referring to his three wins Saturday at Santa Anita, including the Robert B. Lewis S. (G3) with Mor Spirit and a maiden special weight with first time starter Ten Blessings, a Hal Earnhardt hombred colt who was named a TDN Rising Star and is nominated to this year’s Triple Crown.