Hoppertunity, who missed his shot to run in this year’s Kentucky Derby (G1) when he was injured a few days before the race, triumphantly returned to Churchill Downs on Friday to score a half-length victory in the $500,000 Clark H. (G1) in his first stakes start against older horses.
Friday’s win did not come easy. Hoppertunity was placed early just behind fellow 3-year-old Constitution, winner of this year’s Florida Derby (G1). Well off the rail coming around the final turn, Hoppertunity caught his foe at the top of the stretch. That pair hooked up for over a furlong before Constitution started to fade. Hoppertunity then had to hold off the late challenge of Prontico to secure the victory.
Owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, Hoppertunity covered 1 1/8-miles over a fast track in 1:49.88
"The thing about Hoppertunity is that he's sort of a one-paced kind of horse and the way he ran off his first race,” said Baffert via phone. “He was just training really well, you know. I was just yelling 'Hold on!' I was watching on my phone so I couldn't see it very well. But you know what? I really wasn't worried because about 50 yards from the wire - (watching the race) on a delay - I got a text that said, 'Congrats.' That's why I really wasn't worried about (Protonico) looming up.”
With the victory Hoppertunity improved his record to 3-2-0 in seven races, all this year. The winner's share of $327,955 improved his earnings to $950,675. Hoppertunity won the Rebel S. this spring at Oaklawn for his first black-type win.
"Bobby is the boss and he knows these animals. That's why he's in the Hall of Fame,” said Pegram. “He brought him here. He was ready and he showed it today. That makes you feel good and you always feel good for the horse."
This was the third Clark win for Baffert, who saddled Silver Charm to take the race in 1998 and Isitingood, also owned by Pegram, in 1996.