ELMONT, NY – Trainer Bob Baffert’s hard-knocking 7-year-old veteran Hoppertunity had to fight through traffic and an erratic-running Hard Study in the stretch to slingshot himself to victory in Saturday’s Grade 2, $400,000 Brooklyn Invitational Stakes at Belmont Park.
Breaking passively from post 2 under Flavien Prat, Hoppertunity saved ground towards the rear while Outplay sat a few lengths off of the rail and led through comfortable fractions of :24.86, :50.66, and 1:15.11. Heading into the far turn, the 9-5 favorite War Story made his move along Outplay’s outside while Hard Study gave a close chase, with War Story taking the lead just before posting a split of 1:38.89 for the opening mile. Behind them, Prat was moving Hoppertunity in between and around slower foes, and by the top of the stretch, Prat tipped him out to attempt a move around Hard Study. Shortly after straightening out, jockey Manny Franco went to the left-handed whip on Hard Study, causing him to lug out slightly, which resulted in Prat having to tap the brakes and shift outward to avoid a collision. Once he collected himself, Hoppertunity was able to re-rally and took command in deep stretch, outlasting a game War Story to the wire by 2 1/4 lengths in a final time of 2:28.61 for the 1 1/2-mile main track event.
“He really likes the mile and 1/2,” Prat said. “I got a good trip, even though he broke a bit slow. He was not that sharp from the gate. But then I got a good trip and saved ground, and he made a run down the lane. A mile and 1/2 is the best race for him.”
Hard Study held on to secure third by a head over Take Your Guns, with longshots Carlino and Backsideofthemoon taking fifth and sixth, respectively. The rest of the field came across as Giant Payday, Outplay, and Mills.
Hoppertunity’s win improved his record to 32-9-7-5, which includes the 2016 edition of the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup, also run at Belmont. The intact son of Any Given Saturday improved his career bankroll to $4,646,625 for owners Karl Watson, Michael Pegram, and Paul Weitman.
“There is so much speed in California that you just can’t (run him there),” Baffert said. “I just ran him at Churchill to get him ready for this race. He’s been a real favorite in the barn. He’s a 7-year-old horse and been around for a long time. He’s very healthy and doing so well. He likes it here.”
Hoppertunity returned $9.10 to win, $4.20 to place, and $2.80 to show. War Story brought back $3.40 to place and $2.40 to show, while Hard Study paid $2.70 to show.