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With a recent race under his belt, Bob Baffert’s Hopkins should be very tough as he defends his title in Saturday’s Grade III, $100,000 Palos Verdes Stakes at Santa Anita Park.
A race that for many years served as Santa Anita’s traditional opening day headliner, the Palos Verdes, which will be run for the 72nd time, has attracted a field of five older sprinters.
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A lightly-raced full horse at age six, Hopkins had been idle nearly nine months prior to running second, beaten 1 ¼ lengths as the 4-5 favorite in a six furlong classified allowance here at Santa Anita Park on Jan. 19.
A close fourth going six furlongs in the Grade I Golden Shaheen in Dubai March 25, Hopkins notched his first stakes win two starts back when taking the Palos Verdes on Feb. 5, 2023 with Juan Hernandez, who aside from the Golden Shaheen, had ridden him exclusively in eight out of his nine career starts.
With Hernandez back in the saddle Saturday, Hopkins, who is by Quality Road out of the Salt Lake mare Hot Spell, should be tough to deny in his second start off the bench.
Owned by SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, LLC, et al, Hopkins is 9-3-4-0 with earnings of $359,700.
The lone California-bred in the field, Richard Mandella’s Big City Lights, a 5-year-old full horse by Mr. Big, comes off an impressive second condition allowance win going six and a half furlongs here at Santa Anita Park in open company Jan. 6, a race in which he earned a career-top 98 Beyer Speed Figure.
A two-time stakes winner with four runner-up performances in statebred stakes competition, Big City Lights will be ridden back by a red-hot Flavien Prat, who bagged three stakes wins this past Saturday and is currently tied with 23 wins atop the jockey standings with Hernandez.
Out of the Exchange Rate mare Champagne Exchange, Big City Lights, who is owned by William Peoples, has four wins and as many seconds from eight starts, good for earnings of $332,420.
First post time for a 10-race card on Saturday is at 12:30 p.m. with admission gates opening at 10:30 a.m.
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