February 28, 2024

Hoppertunity seeks title defense in San Antonio

Hoppertunityhas earned $4,266,425 from a 27-7-6-4 career record © BENOIT PHOTO

Hoppertunity will look to join an illustrious group as a dual winner of Saturday’s $300,000 San Antonio (G2) at Santa Anita. The 1 1/8-mile prelude to the Santa Anita H. (G1) was won by the Bob Baffert-trained six-year-old by a nose last year.

The San Antonio has been won in back-to-back seasons by Gun Bow (1964-65), Gentlemen (1997-98) and Game On Dude (2012-13), the latter also trained by Baffert. Hoppertunity earned the most prestigious win of his career last fall, taking the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Belmont Park by a half-length, but finished the season with nondescript fourths in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) and Clark H. (G1).

Accelerate, who won the Los Alamitos Derby (G2) last fall, enters off a sharp second in the San Pasqual (G2) to Midnight Storm, who shook loose from a trio of rivals that also included Dalmore and Prospect Park. All three San Pasqual returnees might find better luck on a dryer track.

Other notables include Grade 1 winner Mor Spirit, fourth in the December 26 Malibu (G1) following a layoff of nearly eight months, and the long-winded veteran Hard Aces, who typically needs a minimum of 1 1/4 miles to show his best.

Another looking for a graded repeat is Flamboyant in the $200,000 San Marcos (G2) over 10 furlongs on the turf. Winless in five starts since taking the 2016 San Marcos, the French-bred six-year-old looks to join Slim Shadey (2012-13) as the only two-time winner of the race.

Entering the San Marcos in peak form is Texas Ryano, who hit a new high taking the Hollywood Turf Cup (G2) at Del Mar, a race Flamboyant finished third in. Blue Tone and Itsinthepost, one-two in the off-the-turf San Gabriel (G3) last out, are back in, while logical contenders Frank Conversation, Twentytwentyvision, and Hi Happy all drew outside posts.

St. Joe Bay, dead-heat winner of the Midnight Lute (G3) last out, heads a field of five in the $200,000 Palos Verdes at six furlongs. His primary challengers include Grade 3 veteran Ocho Ocho Ocho and dual allowance winner Moe Candy.