Hoppertunity (Any Given Saturday) and jockey John Velazquez win the Jockey Club Gold Cup (Gr I) at Belmont Park.
Still going strong at age six, Bob Baffert’s Hoppertunity will defend his title against seven older horses at 1 1/16 miles in Saturday’s Grade II, $ 300,000 San Antonio Stakes at Santa Anita. Although he figures to be favored, Hoppertunity faces stiff competition from the likes of stablemate Mor Spirit and two other 4-year-olds—Accelerate and Dalmore. Five year old Prospect Park will try to rebound off a disappointing fourth place finish in the Grade II San Pasqual Stakes here on New Year’s Day.
HOPPERTUNITY: Fresh off his biggest career year, in which he also won the Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup three starts back at Belmont Park on Oct. 8, Hoppertunity has been freshened by Baffert since running fourth at 3-1 in the Grade I, 1 1/8 miles Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on Nov. 25 and would appear primed for a top effort on his home court. Although he’s long toiled in the shadow of several superstar stablemates, he has quietly amassed earnings of $ 3,886,425 from an overall record of 24-6-6-4. Owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, he is 12-3-4-2 at Santa Anita.
MOR SPIRIT: An even fourth in the Grade I Malibu on Dec. 26 at seven furlongs, he had been idle since well beaten in the Kentucky Derby May 7. Owned by Michael L. Peterson, this Pennsylvania-bred ridgling by Eskendereya was considered a top tier Derby hopeful a year ago and finished second as the 7-5 favorite in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby three starts back on April 9. With two wins and a pair of seconds from four tries at the San Antonio distance, Mor Spirit can be expected to show good tactical speed as he stretches out on Saturday.
ACCELERATE: Trained by John Sadler, this chestnut colt by Lookin At Lucky rallied to be a big second over a wet fast track in the Grade II, 1 1/16 miles San Pasqual Stakes here Jan. 1, earning a 99 Beyer Speed figure in the process. Owned by Hronis Racing, LLC, he won the Grade II Los Alamitos Derby three starts back on Sept. 24 and validated that effort with a solid third here in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile on Nov. 4. Ridden in all eight of his starts by Tyler Baze, he is currently 8-3-2-2 and could be poised to have a career year.
DALMORE: Trained by Keith Desormeaux, he was most recently third, beaten 2 ½ lengths by Accelerate in the Grade II San Pasqual Stakes on Jan. 1. An impressive maiden special weight winner here on March 25, he was subsequently distanced in the Grade I Wood Memorial April 9, but rebounded later in the spring and summer to win a pair of races, including the Grade III Affirmed Stakes five starts back on July 2. Blessed with plenty of natural speed, it’ll be up to Desormeaux’s Hall of Fame brother, Kent, to ration it out over a distance that he’s won at on three occasions from six starts. Owned by Big Chief Racing, LLC, Head of Plains Partners, Rocker O Ranch and partners, the 4-year-old colt by Colonel John is 15-3-4-1, with earnings of $ 311,302.
PROSPECT PARK: A well beaten fourth at 3-1 in the Grade II San Pasqual Jan. 1, Pam and Martin Wygod’s homebred 5-year-old will hope to turn things around on a fast track Saturday. A sharp second two starts back in a seven furlong classified allowance at Del Mar on Dec. 1, Prospect Park has been winless in five starts since winning the Grade III La Jolla Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on turf in August, 2015. Trained by Clifford Sise, this son of top sire Tapit is 15-3-6-2 with earnings of $ 465,370.
THE GRADE II SAN ANTONIO STAKES WITH JOCKEYS & WEIGHTS IN POST POSITION ORDER
Race 8 of 9 Approximate post time 4 p.m. PT
1. Hoppertunity—Flavien Prat—125
2. Avanti Bello—Mario Gutierrez–120
3. Prospect Park—Norberto Arroyo, Jr.—120
4. El Huerfano—Victor Espinoza–120
5. Mor Spirit—Mike Smith—122
6. Dalmore—Kent Desormeaux—122
7. Accelerate—Tyler Baze—125
8. Hard Aces—Santiago Gonzalez—122
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