Karl Watson, Mike Pegram, and Paul Weitman's Hoppertunity grinded out his second straight victory in the San Antonio Stakes (G2) Feb. 4 and pushed his earnings to more than $4 million with the victory.
Last of seven early on and in the backstretch Saturday, the 6-year-old son of Any Given Saturday moved up between horses in the final turn of the 1 1/16-mile test, but still had plenty of work to do.
In the clear on the outside in the stretch, the two-time grade 1 winner found his best stride under jockey Flavien Prat and passed favorite and Bob Baffert-trained stablemate Mor Spirit in the final sixteenth to win by a length at Santa Anita Park.
"He's always slow out of the gate," said Prat, who was also aboard Hoppertunity in his 2016 San Antonio win. "He'll never be fast and he likes to come from off the pace. Once he starts running, you just have to let him run and do his thing. The worst part for me is the first part of the race, because I have to ask him, but then he just takes you to the wire."
Mor Spirit, off at 9-5, tracked early leader El Huerfano in third early as the first quarter went in :23.18 and the half in :46.30. The Eskendereya ridgling moved up to second through six furlongs in 1:10.39 and hit the front in the stretch, but got swallowed up by Hoppertunity late.
"I was really happy with Mor Spirit," Baffert said. "I thought for sure turning for home he was going to win it. But Hoppertunity, he just grinded it out, came running, and I'm happy for the (owners)."
"Everyone knows this horse," Prat said of Hoppertunity, who has finished in the top five in all 25 of his starts. "He ran a great race. I think he may be better than he was last year."
Baffert said after the race, that if everything goes well, Hoppertunity will head back overseas for another start in the Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1). He finished third, behind California Chrome and Mubtaahij, in last year's World Cup.
"There's nothing like having a good horse. That's why we're in the business," Baffert said. "So as long as he's doing well, we'll go to Dubai and see if we can get another win."
The San Antonio was Hoppertunity's sixth graded win, including scores in the 2016 Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) and the 2014 Clark Handicap (G1).