Ria Antonia
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Ria Antonia
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Anne M. Eberhardt

Baffert Horses Breeze in Weather Break

Hoppertunity, Ria Antonia clock final moves for Kentucky Derby, Oaks April 28.

Trainer Bob Baffert sent Hoppertunity through his final move for the May 3 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) April 28, squeezing the work in between downpours at Churchill Downs.

Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) hopeful Ria Antonia, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) winner via disqualification, also stretched her legs with a powerful work for the Hall of Fame horseman.

Hoppertunity, winner of the Rebel Stakes (gr. II) and runner-up to likely Kentucky Derby favorite California Chrome  in the April 5 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) last time out for Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman, went four furlongs in company with stablemate Drill. The Any Given Saturday colt broke off about two lengths behind and finished on even terms under jockey Martin Garcia.

Churchill Clockers caught the pair in :48 flat, with splits of :12, :24 1/5, and out six and seven furlongs in 1:13 2/5 and 1:27 2/5, respectively.

"A big relief," Baffert said. "When I got here this morning around 6:15 and it was coming down, I was like, 'Oh,' panicking, looking at the track... I was almost getting ready to just call it off until tomorrow, but then all of the sudden the tractors came out, (and) it started to ease up a little bit."

Before Hoppertunity's move, Ria Antonia powered through a half in :47 2/5 with Garcia in the irons, going in splits of :11 3/5 and :23 1/5, galloping out five furlongs in 1:00 flat and six furlongs in 1:13 3/5. The Rockport Harbor filly who runs for Loooch Racing and Christopher Dunn, comes off a runner-up finish to Fashion Plate in the April 5 Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I).

"I was more worried about the lightning; it was pretty hairy out there," Baffert said. "Then it sort of cleared up a little bit, and we brought Ria out there and she worked really nice over it, so while she was out there we got the other ones ready really quick, got them out there, and it worked out."

Baffert said the track held up well under the morning deluge that struck the Louisville area in the early morning hours.

"It was a little bit soft, it was sort of even the whole way; I liked the way it was today. Drill really liked the wet, so at least he was a good partner. Hoppertunity just went along there steady, and Martin said he was having a hard time pulling him up at the end. He looks good, I'm really happy we got the work in, and now we can just sit back and enjoy the festivities, keep them healthy and just love on them."

Baffert also reported that Tanma Corp.'s Chitu —who breezed April 27 and lost the special "spider-bar" shoe he was wearing to protect his right front hoof—came out of that work with no issues.

"The thing about the foot, it was more about a cosmetic-looking thing on him, it was blown out of proportion, but the foot is all patched up and he's good. He's got a regular shoe on now."