March 21, 2018

Sharp Samurai tops Twilight Derby; Hoppertunity returns in Comma to the Top

Hoppertunityhas earned $4,266,425 from a 27-7-6-4 career record © BENOIT PHOTO

Hero of the Del Mar Derby (G2) and La Jolla (G3), Sharp Samurai will try to extend his winning streak to four when he lines up for Saturday’s $200,000 Twilight Derby (G2) at Santa Anita. The Mark Glatt-trained gelding heads a field of 11 3-year-olds in the 1 1/8-mile turf test.

Sharp Samurai has captured four-of-five starts since switching to turf, the lone setback being a third in his stakes debut. The son of First Samurai brings a strong closing kick to the equation, registering a 101 BRIS Late Pace rating posting a half-length decision in the Del Mar Derby, and has shown an affinity for Santa Anita’s course winning two-of-three attempts. Gary Stevens retains the mount.

Bowies Hero defeated Sharp Samurai in the Singletary Stakes earlier this season and exits a solid third in the Del Mar Derby. Kent Desormeaux picks up the assignment on the three-time stakes victor and the Artie Schiller colt is one of two entrants for Phil d’Amato. The conditioner is also responsible Troublewithatee, who will make his first stakes attempt following a pair of wins over maiden special weight and entry-level allowance rivals.

Del Mar Derby runner-up Big Score is also back for the Twilight Derby. A Grade 3 winner earlier this year, the Tim Yakteen trainee will be guided by Flavien Prat. Channel Maker figures to appreciate the class relief following a sixth versus elders in the Turf Classic (G1) at Belmont Park. The Bill Mott charge captured the final leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, the grassy Breeders’ Stakes at Woodbine, two starts previously.

Profiteer has shipped west for Shug McGaughey following a third in the Commonwealth Derby (G3) at Laurel Park. An allowance winner at Saratoga two back, the War Front colt adds the services of Mike Smith. And Grade 3 scorer Cowboy Culture invades from the Midwest with a two-race win streak, most recently capturing the Centaur at Indiana Downs for Brad Cox. Florent Geroux will be back up.

Earlier on the program, multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Hoppertunity will return to the races against six foes in the $70,000 Comma to the Top.

The one-mile distance doesn’t appear favorable for the veteran 6-year-old, but trainer Bob Baffert needs a race in preparation for the November 24 Clark H. (G1) at Churchill Downs. Hoppertunity opened 2017 with a convincing tally in the San Antonio (G2) at Santa Anita and was last seen finishing a well-beaten sixth to Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup. Prat has the call.

The Hall of Fame conditioner will also send out the lightly-raced Irish Freedom, who exits a convincing entry-level allowance victory at Santa Anita. Unplaced in the Santa Anita Derby (G1), the 3-year-old son of Pioneerof the Nile will be making his second stakes attempt.

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