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Palace Malice turns back Goldencents to win the Met Mile (I)

Palace Malice turns back Goldencents to win the Met Mile (I)

Derby Profile #1: Hoppertunity

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Highlights:

  • 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

Basics:

  • 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.

Behedeman (Eddington x Ragtime Hope, by Dixieland Band) ran better than his 20-1 morning line suggested, surging 5-wide late to be 4th, losing by just 2 lengths.

Behedeman (Eddington x Ragtime Hope, by Dixieland Band) ran better than his 20-1 morning line suggested, surging 5-wide late to be 4th, losing by just 2 lengths.

Much love for Little Mike

Much love for Little Mike

Palace Malice & Mike Smith ran second in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (I)

Palace Malice & Mike Smith ran second in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (I)

Breeders’ Cup Classic Profile #3: Game On Dude

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Basics:

(Awesome Again x Worldly Pleasure, by Devil His Due)

  • Trainer: Bob Baffert (Silver Charm, Lookin at Lucky, Point Given)
  • Jockey: Mike Smith
  • Owned by: Diamond Pride LLC, Lanni Family Trust, Mercedes Stable LLC and Schiappa, B.
  • Career Record: 27:15-5-1
  • Earnings: $5,602,158

Vital Stats:

  • 2013 Record: 5:5-0-0
  • 2013 accomplishments: Undefeated in 5 starts, winner of 3 G1 10-furlong races
  • Win and You’re In winner: Pacific Classic
  • Santa Anita record: 8:7-0-0
  • TrueNicks rating: D Variant 0.22
  • Dosage Index: 3.29
  • Highest Equibase Speed Figure of 2013: 122 (unchanged from last year)
  • Sire Awesome Again won this race
  • Won last prep [10-furlong Pacific Classic by 5 1/2 lengths]
  • Trainer has won 7 Breeders’ Cup races, closest to Classic win came in 2011 when Game On Dude was 2nd to Drosselmeyer
  • Aims to be the first gelding to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic
  • Aims to be the oldest horse (age 6) to win

Summary: Will the third time prove to be the charm for Game On Dude? In 2011 he was second. Last year he was a [poorly tripped] seventh. He has had a different jockey for each of his three runnings, and each time presented himself as a beast keen to perform. This year, Bob Baffert has changed a few things, like keeping the gelding home in California and without a September prep race in hopes of having him fresh off the layoff. It’s worked before, but can the Dude finally pass the test?

Prep Schedule: Undefeated this season, Dude kept his head up after the Classic, winning the 2012 Native Diver (III) by 1 1/2 lengths going wire-to-wire on Hollywood’s polytrack. He kicked the year off right in the 9-furlong San Antonio (II), romping by 5 1/2 lengths over 3 rivals. A month later, he turned heads in the Santa Anita Handicap (I), winning the 10-furlong classic by nearly 8 lengths over a good field. Not slowing down, he shipped cross-country for the Charles Town Classic (II) 6 weeks later, going wire-to-wire in a hard-fought victory with questionable glue-on shoes, defeating rival Clubhouse Ride by a half length. Taking a break, he returned to Santa Anita a few months later as a fresh horse, running again from wire-to-wire to beat Kettle Corn in the 10-furlong Hollywood Gold Cup (I) by a length. Second off the layoff, he was at his best yet in the Pacific Classic (I), wowing the crowd with a dominant 8 1/2 length over a strong field.

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Physique: While not the most visually impressive horse standing still, Dude’s biggest asset is his efficiency; he coasts over the ground while others are trying their best to keep within touching distance. His consistently good stride is his biggest plus.

Pedigree: Sire Awesome Again won the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 1998 in one of the strongest fields (in my opinion) in memory, then went on to sire one of the most impressive winners of the race in Ghostzapper as well as many other accomplished distance-goers including Paynter, Awesome Gem, and Oxbow.

Running Style: Likely pacesetter, usually goes wire-to-wire in victory

Pros: Speed succeeds, and Game On Dude has it in volumes and is arguably the best horse on the home turf of Santa Anita, and he is having his best year ever to date. Baffert is brushing him up for a big effort here, and he picks up the winningest Breeders’ Cup rider Mike Smith.

Cons: The Classic this year looks full of speed already with Fort Larned, Game On Dude, possibly Graydar, and others looking for that lead or just off of it. It has also been disputed that Dude hasn’t faced much apart from the same old foes he’s already bested all year, leaving him vulnerable to more competitive invaders from the east.

Final Word: Due to be the favorite once again this year, Game On Dude is in his element as he was the past two runnings and is keen to get it right this year as he contends for a possible Horse of the Year title. While he goes wire-to-wire and has speed to burn, Mike Smith could likely get this horse to relax on the lead early once again and try to set up coasting fractions— who in the past has wanted to mess with the Dude on the lead anyway— before trying to run away with it. Try and catch him!

Little Mike chooses to not be so modest about his win in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (I)

Little Mike chooses to not be so modest about his win in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (I)

This one’s going in my virtual stable. I had much love for the tall, handsome Tourist, a son of Tiznow owned by WinStar who made his debut on Super Saturday, racing 3rd. Mike Smith, up. (Photo by Dawna Wood/The Galloping Hat Rack)

This one’s going in my virtual stable. I had much love for the tall, handsome Tourist, a son of Tiznow owned by WinStar who made his debut on Super Saturday, racing 3rd. Mike Smith, up. (Photo by Dawna Wood/The Galloping Hat Rack)

What just happened? Royal Delta returns after finishing 2nd in the Beldame Invitational. (Photo by Dawna Wood/The Galloping Hat Rack)

What just happened? Royal Delta returns after finishing 2nd in the Beldame Invitational. (Photo by Dawna Wood/The Galloping Hat Rack)

Easter Gift and Mike Smith in the Kelso Handicap (II) post parade (Photo by Dawna Wood/The Galloping Hat Rack)

Easter Gift and Mike Smith in the Kelso Handicap (II) post parade (Photo by Dawna Wood/The Galloping Hat Rack)

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Tracks visited: Calder, Saratoga, Belmont, Suffolk, Aqueduct.


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