Hoppertunity pointing to Dubai World Cup, Looks to Spare benefits from change in riding instructions

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TwinSpires Staff

November 28th, 2015

Edited Press Release

Hoppertunity exited Friday’s runner-up effort in the Clark H. (G1) in “good shape” and will be pointed toward to the $10 million Dubai World Cup (G1) at Meydan Racecourse on March 26, trainer Bob Baffert reports.

“That’s our long-term goal,” Baffert said via telephone on Saturday morning. “He’ll go back to California and we’ll start getting him ready for Dubai.”

Hoppertunity, who was making a title defense in the Clark, rallied to finish three-quarters of a length behind the winning Effinex. Baffert’s chief assistant Jimmy Barnes was on hand to saddle the 4-year-old son of Any Given Saturday and came away pleased with the colt’s performance.

“I think that he ran well considering that the track was a little bit speed-biased,” Barnes said. “It was kind of hard to make up any ground on it. Had it been a normal racetrack I think we would’ve beaten the other horse (Effinex).”

A simple change in riding instructions made all the difference for Looks to Spare in the Clark after the Illinois-bred son of Pollard’s Vision finished a close third as the longest shot in the field at 88-1 odds.

Trainer Otabek Umarov, a native of Tashkent, Uzbekistan, told jockey Victor Lebron to lay closer to the pace than he did in previous starts.

“In the last few races, I always told the jockey to just fall back and come from behind,” Umarov said. “That was my mistake on my part. Every time he came back he was always fresh. I knew that he still could run and handle the tough races. So (Friday) I told the jockey to stay close and make his move when everyone makes their move and that’s what happened.

“In these graded stakes races, all of these horses who take the lead seem to stay close to wire a lot of the time. That’s what I have learned. So from now on, he’s going to stay close and I think we’re going to be running well. You’re not going to see him next time as a longshot, maybe 20-1 or something like that.”

Looks to Spare was claimed for $5,000 by his current connections in April after a wire-to-wire victory at Hawthorne. The 5-year-old gelding earned his first stakes win with a 74-1 upset in the August 1 West Virginia Governors at Mountaineer but entered the Clark off a pair of well-beaten efforts.

“I just saw that the horse had a big heart and that he tries hard every time he runs,” Umarov said when asked why he claimed Looks to Spare. “I thought that he just simply needed to be trained properly. I’m so happy with this horse that I claimed for $5,000 is running well in all of these tough races.”

Umarov hasn’t given a whole lot of thought into where the horse would run next.

“I’d like to go somewhere like Oaklawn or Gulfstream where he can run,” he said. “We’ll see what happens. I want to give him a bit of time off. A horse like this needs to be taken good care of. The important thing is to keep him healthy and sound and he’ll run well again, I think. I don’t think I’ll turn him out, just walk him around the shed row. He likes to be in the barn. He’s a very social horse.”

In other Churchill Downs news: 

Ahh Chocolate will get a “well-deserved break” after her 1 ½-legnth victory in Thanksgiving Day’s Falls City H. (G2).

“She’ll get turned out for at least 30 days,” trainer Neil Howard said. “I think she deserves a nice little rest. It’s all conjecture but you would think that she would be better as she gets more mature. I hope that’s the case, but you never know.”

Hoppertunity photo courtesy of Wendy Wooley/EquiSport Photos