01/10/2015 9:50PM

Hoppertunity picks up where he left off by taking San Pasqual

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Benoit & Associates
Hoppertunity, under Martin Garcia, surpasses $1 million in earnings by winning the San Pasqual.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Bob Baffert said he got a call from someone on the East Coast late last year, desirous of sending the trainer a horse for the Strub series. Baffert told him there was no more Strub series, and, besides that, California wasn’t exactly the place to send a horse about to turn 4.

 That division at Santa Anita, headlined by the likes of Bayern, California Chrome, and Shared Belief, is strengthened further by Hoppertunity, who followed up his season-ending win in the Clark Handicap last November with a victory on Saturday in the Grade 2, $201,500 San Pasqual Stakes at Santa Anita to kick off 2015.

 Hoppertunity ($3.60) was fifth in the 11-horse field midway through the race, but hugged the rail on the final turn and down the stretch under jockey Martin Garcia to rally for a 1 3/4-length victory over Appealing Tale.

 “I told him, ‘Don’t chase. Just let him get comfortable.’ He rode a great race,” Baffert said.

 Blue Tone was another neck back in third and was followed, in order, by Tonito M., Big Cazanova, Bronzo, Quadrivium, Majestic Harbor, Mr. Commons, Salto Del Indio, and Baccelo.

 Hoppertunity completed 1 1/16 miles on the fast main track in 1:41.69. His mile split of 1:35.17 was slower than the final time (1:34.88) recorded one hour earlier by the 3-year-old Calculator when winning the Sham Stakes.

 “He worked really well for this. He’s the kind of horse who should get better and better,” Baffert said.

 Hoppertunity won the Rebel Stakes and was second in the Santa Anita Derby to rank as one of the top contenders for the Kentucky Derby last year. But he was injured the week of the race, and Baffert decided to give him an extended vacation rather than rush him back for summer racing.

 When Hoppertunity returned in the fall, he was second in a sprint prep at Santa Anita the week of the Breeders’ Cup, then went to Churchill Downs to annex the Clark.

 Baffert said there a number of possibilities for Hoppertunity for his next race. Perhaps, with Bayern temporarily sidelined with a quarter crack, Hoppertunity will represent Baffert’s barn in the San Antonio here next month, but Baffert is loathe to make plans this far out.

“With all the 4-year-olds out here, something’s gotta give, and hopefully it’s not me,” Baffert said. “He’ll be nominated everywhere. We know he ships well.”

 Hoppertunity, a son of Any Given Saturday, is owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman. He has now won 4 of 8 starts, and the $120,000 winner’s share from Saturday pushed his career earnings past the $1 million mark.