HOPPERTUNITY BECOMES BAFFERT’S LATEST DERBY HOPEFUL WITH REBEL WIN

March 16, 2014

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HOT SPRINGS, AR (Saturday, March 15, 2014) – Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert once again showed why he should never be overlooked when shipping into Oaklawn when he sent out 6-1 fourth choice Hoppertunity to win the roughly run $600,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) Saturday before an on track crowd of 30,873. It was a record fourth Rebel victory for Baffert and the second for owners Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, who also won the 2010 edition with eventual champion Lookin at Lucky.

Ridden by Mike Smith, Hoppertunity was always within striking distance as he tracked Grade 1 winner Strong Mandate from third place through early fractions of 24 and :47 4/5 for the first half mile. As the horses began to straighten for home, the winner brushed with Southwest Stakes winner Tapiture, the 2-1 favorite, and the two battled to the wire along with Strong Mandate and Ride On Curlin, who had been racing in second early. Hoppertunity prevailed by a half-length over Tapiture at the wire after completing the 1 1/16 mile race in 1:43 4/5 over a wet fast track. Ride On Curlin held on for third with Strong Mandate fourth.

The stewards put up the inquiry sign and jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. filed an objection, but there was no change made to the order of finish.

“We based our decision on the fact that Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. on Tapiture pushed his way out from behind the four horse (Strong Mandate) as the horses were straightening out into the stretch,” said Association Steward Larry Synder.  “Jockey Mike Smith was just holding his position.”

"There was some bumping going on, but I was just holding my ground,” said Smith. “He'd already pushed me out to get out, which is fine because he was looking for racing room and I totally understand that. But, I wasn't just going to give him ground. I had to hold my ground at some point. And that's all I did. I held my ground and we bumped. It caused me to lay in and that caused me to tip. If anything I'd say 60-40, 60 on the inside 40 on the out.”

Sheltowee’s Boy, Street Strategy, Kobe’s Back and Jet Cat completed the order of finish.

Hoppertunity, by Any Given Sunday, improved his career record to two wins from four starts and has now earned $410,720. His Rebel victory also earned him 50 points toward making the Kentucky Derby field based on Churchill Downs’ criteria for making the 20-horse field, while vaulting him into second place in the standings among all 3-year-olds pointing toward the “Run for the Roses.”

He returned $14.20, $5.80 and $4.20.

Live racing resumes at Oaklawn Sunday at1:30 p.m. with a nine-race card.

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