Hoppertunity out-bobs Imperative in San Antonio

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February 7th, 2016

After being out-bobbed in last year’s Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1), Hoppertunity got his nose down at the most opportune time in Saturday’s $500,690 San Antonio (G2), edging Imperative by the slimmest of margins.

With Flavien Prat up for the first time, the Bob Baffert-trained winner picked up his fourth graded stakes victory and completed 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.37 over the fast Santa Anita oval. Baffert, who also captured Robert B. Lewis (G3) earlier on the card with Kentucky Derby contender Mor Spirit, said the 5-year-old son of Any Given Saturday is likely overseas next for the $10 million Dubai World Cup (G1) at Meydan on March 26.

Cat Burglar showed the way from the break, with Donworth an up close in second through splits of :23.18, :46.93 and 1:10.57. Hoppertunity bided his time near the back of the eight-horse field during the early stages and began to advance on the far turn, swinging extremely wide into the stretch. Imperative followed behind his rival and went to the far outside after straightening for home.

The top two continued to show the way in upper stretch, with Donworth edging past Cat Burglar with about a furlong remaining, but Hoppertunity and Imperative were rolling on the far outside. Imperative momentarily appeared to be going the better of the two, getting his head in front nearing the wire, but Hoppertunity was continued to surge and won the bob.

It was a tough beat for the runner-up, who led right before and right after the wire. Hoppertunity was favored at 9-5, with Imperative the 7-2 second choice.

Donworth wound up a half-length back in third and was followed by Cat Burglar, Hard Aces, Cyrus Alexander, El Kabeir and Blingo.

Hero of the 2014 Clark H. (G1), Hoppertunity hadn’t visited the winner’s circle since taking the San Pasqual (G2) 13 months previously, snapping a nine-race losing skein. He had placed in his last four outings, finishing second in the Awesome Again (G1), Fayette (G2) and Clark H. before a third to California Chrome most recently in the January 9 San Pasqual.

The bay horse pocketed $300,000 on Saturday, increasing his earnings $1,872,675 for owners Karl Watson, Michael Pegram and Paul Weitmman, and Hoppertunity’s career line now reads 18-5-6-3.

Bred in Kentucky by Betz/D.J. Stable/Kidder/J. Betz/Robenalt, Hoppertunity was purchased for $300,000 as a yearling at the 2012 Keeneland September sale. He’s out of the Grade 2-placed Unaccounted For mare Refugee, making him a half-brother to multiple Grade 1 queen Executiveprivilege, and counts 1979 champion 3-year-old filly Davona Dale as his third maternal dam.

San Antonio Quotes:

FLAVIEN PRAT, HOPPERTUNITY: “He did a good job. He broke OK today; he’s usually a bit slow from the gate. He broke good, the pace was good, so that helped us a lot.

“I thought I was beat to tell you the truth.”

MIKE SMITH, IMPERATIVE, SECOND: “I had to wait for some room to get him out and that really cost me. I still thought he won! I’m dumbfounded right now, I can’t even talk. I could have sworn that we won.” 

BOB BAFFERT, HOPPERTUNITY: “I thought I did (get the photo), but I didn’t want to move. 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.

“He got away decent for him. He’s just getting rolling now...It was a good prep for him for Dubai (World Cup on March 26). 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. That’s about it…This was a good day for us.”

Hoppertunity (orange silks) photo courtesy of Benoit Photos