Hoppertunity invades to face Effinex, Mubtaahij in Jockey Club Gold Cup

Profile Picture: James Scully

October 5th, 2016

Bob Baffert elected to scratch Hoppertunity from last Saturday’s Awesome Again (G1) at Santa Anita and send him east for Saturday’s $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Belmont Park, a savvy move given he won’t have to face California Chrome and will be competing for more than three times the purse money. The Grade 1-winning horse will meet five rivals in the 1 ¼-mile race that serves as a “Win & You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).

Hoppertunity captured the San Antonio (G2) before recording an excellent third in the Dubai World Cup (G1) earlier this year. The 5-year-old exits a fourth to California Chrome in the Pacific Classic (G1) and the confirmed closer may appreciate getting away from California tracks that can favor early speed. John Velazquez will take over the reins on the earner of more than $2.9 million.

Mubtaahij is a top contender following a head second in the September 3 Woodward (G1) at Saratoga. Runner-up in the Dubai World Cup, the 4-year-old colt will be making his third start since being transferred to Kiaran McLaughlin during the spring. Irad Ortiz retains the mount.

Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) runner-up Effinex is a serious threat with his best. A hard-fought winner of the Suburban (G2) two back, the 5-year-old has been freshened two months off a disappointing fourth in the Whitney (G1). Mike Smith will be in to ride the Grade 1 winner for Jimmy Jerkens and Effinex can move past Funny Cide as the all-time leading New York-bred money earner.

Grade 2 hero Protonico will make his second start of the year for Todd Pletcher, returning from a nine-month layoff with an allowance tally at Belmont on September 9. The 4-year-old regains the services of Javier Castellano, who last guided him to a five-length victory in the Ben Ali (G3) 18 months ago.

A pair of outsiders, Watershed and War Story, round out the field.

Earlier on the program, a well-matched field of seven will contest the $350,000 Kelso H. (G2) at a mile on the main track. Tommy Macho will make his first appearance since a convincing win in the Fred Hooper (G3) in early February and has posted graded wins in two of his last three starts for Pletcher. The 4-year-old colt has two wins and a third from three previous starts at Belmont.

Tamarkuz merits respect following a runner-up in the Forego (G1) and Point Piper will invade for Jerry Hollendorfer after rolling to a 4 ¾-length score in the August 14 Long Acres Mile (G3) at Emerald Downs. Anchor Down and Upstart, both Grade 3 winners this year, could also attract support.

Hoppertunity photo courtesy of Benoit