- G2 winner at 1 1/16 miles
- G1-placed at 9 furlongs
- By a G1 winner out of a G1 producer from a great dam line
- High percentage connections shipping, Triple Crown races
- Trainer: Bob Baffert (Silver Charm, Game On Dude, Real Quiet)
- Jockey: Mike Smith
- Owned by: Watson, Karl; Pegram, Michael E.; Weitman, Paul
- Record: 5: 2-1-0
- Earnings: $610,720
- Best speed figures: 100 Beyer (Rebel Stakes), 100 BRIS Figure (Rebel Stakes), 105 Equibase
Background: A good young horse who managed to become the latest of Bob Baffert’s to ship well into the Midwest ranks, Hoppertunity improved in the ability and luck department to score a surging win in the Rebel Stakes (II) at Oaklawn, edging graded winners Tapiture and Strong Mandate to establish himself as one of the top Derby prep horses in the region. Trainer Bob Baffert and co-owner Mike Pegram are no strangers to Triple Crown success having campaigned Real Quiet together to a near-Triple Crown.
Prep Schedule: Hoppertunity was regarded as a quality runner when making his 7-furlong debut in January at Santa Anita Park; despite running 5th to his ultra talented stablemate Bayern, the colt made up ground late going wide into the stretch. Sent off at 6-1 his next try, Hoppertunity broke his maiden going away at a mile with a much better trip, winning by 3 lengths. Jumping into stakes competition, Hoppertunity shipped to the Risen Star (II) at Fair Grounds 3 weeks later while stretching out a half furlong, but missed the board by a length while getting crowded in heavy traffic on the turn. Turning back 3 weeks later to the Rebel (II) and getting Mike Smith to ride him at Oaklawn, Hop found his stride late, making up 6 lengths in the stretch to win by a half length. Back in California 3 weeks later, he made a valiant bid in the Santa Anita Derby (I) in his first try at 9 furlongs, but was second best to California Chrome, defeated by about 5 while beating the rest of the field by at least 3 lengths.
Pedigree: Hoppertunity combines a lot of great genetics into one solid yet overlooked family tree. Sire Any Given Saturday has not done much a stallion, with the bulk of his progeny doing best on the grass with Hoppertunity being his best U.S. runner to date. Any Given Saturday, a son of classic horse producer Distorted Humor and out of the A.P. Indy mare Weekend in Indy, ran well at 9-10 furlongs with his major wins being the 9-furlong Haskell (I) and Brooklyn Handicap (II) while finishing 8th in the Derby. The Danzig influence is reaffirmed again in his dam side with the Unaccounted For daughter, Refugee, who also produced the very talented G1 winner Executiveprivilege, with Danzig siring her dam Polish Maid, who is out of the super filly Davona Dale.
Estimated TrueNicks Rating: A++ Variant: 11.11
Dosage Index: 2.64
Running Style: Off-the-pace
Pros: Hoppertunity is backed by serious connection power, as trainer Bob Baffert has won 10 Triple Crown races including 3 Kentucky Derby wins, one of which was with the owners’ Real Quiet. Jockey Mike Smith has been on fire this spring snapping up graded stakes despite the odds, and he himself has a stellar record with the Triple Crown races having won each of them once and won the Belmont last year with Palace Malice. Hoppertunity comes from a strong distance family, and his backers proclaim that this horse will thrive with even more ground as a late-improving horse.
Cons: Hoppertunity faces a steep challenge from the Apollo curse as a horse who has never run as a two-year-old, making his first start on January 4 of this year. He is the only horse in the field countering this issue.
Final Word: Not really urged in the Santa Anita Derby, Hoppertunity seemed to store something in the tank off his last start, which he didn’t need to win off that Rebel (II) victory. Despite having no experience as a two-year-old, Hoppertunity hasn’t shown his greenhorn side to anyone and comes from a strong racing family who has done little but excel given the opportunity (pardon the pun) for more ground, and has been able to separate from the bunch late in the game. A strong underdog play, I am a complete believer that Hoppertunity’s best will shine through at the 10-furlong stage— however good that “best” may be, is still unknown.