02/04/2017 8:27PM

Hoppertunity surpasses $4 million milestone with San Antonio repeat

Emily Shields
Hoppertunity, with Flavien Prat aboard, is headed back to the Dubai World Cup after winning the Grade 2 San Antonio for the second time.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Hoppertunity has raced in the shadow of horses like California Chrome, or barnmates American Pharoah and now Arrogate, during his career, but he has done quite well for himself in his own right, and on Saturday he surged past the $4 million mark in career earnings by  taking the Grade 2, $300,690 San Antonio Stakes at Santa Anita for the second straight year.

 The San Antonio this year was run at 1 1/16 miles, 110 yards shorter than last year, but that made no difference for Hoppertunity ($7),  who unleashed his steady closing charge in time to catch stablemate Mor Spirit and win by one length. Mor Spirit, favored at 9-5, was three-quarters of a length better than Accelerate, followed by El Huerfano, Hard Aces, Dalmore, and Avanti Bello.

 Hoppertunity was timed in 1:42.55 on the fast main track, and it took less time than that for trainer Bob Baffert to confirm that his original plan for Hoppertunity – to return to next month’s Dubai World Cup – was still on.

 “As long as he’s doing well, we’ll go to Dubai,” he said.

 Hoppertunity finished third in last year’s World Cup behind California Chrome. He has raced at the highest level his whole career, and while this was only his seventh victory in 25 starts, he has consistently brought back checks in major races, like in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, while knocking off Grade 1 races like the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Clark Handicap. He pocketed another $180,000 on Saturday for owners Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman.

 “He’s made so much going here and there,” said Baffert, who has trained Hoppertunity throughout his career. “There’s nothing fancy about him. He does have a small fan base. He always shows up. He’s easy to train.”

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 Hoppertunity, Baffert had been saying for weeks, was training as well as ever. “He was training really, really well,” Baffert reiterated in the winner’s circle on Saturday. “The best I’ve seen him train.”

Hoppertunity was last of seven early, but he had plenty of pace into which to run, which aided a horse who’s probably better at longer distances. El Huerfano set fractions of 23.18 seconds, 46.30, and 1:10.39 for the first six furlongs, with Mor Spirit never far away. Mor Spirit got the best of El Huerfano in upper stretch, but by then Hoppertunity had been taken to the middle of the track and was relentlessly closing.

 “He just grinds it out. He came running,” said Baffert, who was winning the San Antonio for the fifth time in the last eight runnings.

 Flavien Prat rode Hoppertunity. It was his third win of four straight to close out the card.

 Hoppertunity, now age 6, is a son of Any Given Saturday. He has finished in the money in 17 of his 25 starts, and fourth or better in 24 starts. The only time he finished worse than fourth was in his debut, when he was fifth, so he has picked up a check every time he has raced. And they’ve added up to a lot.