by Teresa A. Genaro
He’s a California horse, but he loves Belmont Park.
Venturing to the mile-and-a-half oval for the second time in his 32-race career, seven-year-old HOPPERTUNITY will head home a perfect two-for-two at Big Sandy, and two-for-two at 12 furlongs, after a 2 1/4-length, come-from-behind win in the $400,000 Brooklyn Invitational (G2) on Saturday.
Breaking from post two under Flavien Prat, the bay horse slipped to the rail and raced well toward the back of the field, edging up slightly as the horses headed up the backstretch after beginning in front of the grandstand. Well in hand in the early going, Hoppertunity ran in the two path until Prat began urging him heading into the final turn.
Easily picking up horses, the son of Any Given Saturday had clear running room until deep stretch, when Prat made a quick move to the three path, and the two grinded their way to the lead for the horse’s ninth win.
Hoppertunity stopped the clock in 2:28.61 over the fast main track, with 9-5 favorite War Story, Hard Study, Take Your Guns, Carlino, Backsideofthemoon, Giant Payday, Outplay and Mills following him under the wire. He returned $9.10 as the 7-2 second choice.
On hand were owners Paul Weitman and Karl Watson; the third in the partnership, Michael Pegram, was unable to make it to Belmont.
“He loves Belmont. Maybe we’ll just leave him here,” Weitman joked.
The Brooklyn was Hoppertunity’s second win at the 12-furlong distance, and, said Weitman, “After today, I think he’s a mile-and-a-half horse.”
Hoppertunity’s damsire, Unaccounted For, won the 1995 Whitney Handicap (G1) and 1994 Jim Dandy (G2). His sire won the Sam F. Davis, Dwyer (G2), Haskell Invitational (G1) and – in a case of like father, like son – Brooklyn Handicap (G2), all in 2007.
Unfortunately, dirt races at 12 furlongs are few and far between, so Weitman and Watson expect their horse to return to races at nine or 10 furlongs.
“We’ll have to look for a good mile-and-a-quarter race,” Weitman said. “(Trainer) Bob (Baffert) will figure something out. He’s good at that.”
“He’s like the forgotten horse,” Baffert said. “The stallion farms aren’t calling looking to buy him even though he’s made all this money, so we’re just having fun with him.”
The Brooklyn was Baffert’s second win on the day in as many starts.
Purchased as a yearling for $300,000, Hoppertunity has more than earned back his purchase price having banked $4,626,625 lifetime to go along with a 32-9-7-5 career mark.
And, according to his owners, there may well be more to come.
“As long as he keeps doing well and likes what he’s doing, he’ll keep running,” Watson said. “I don’t see him retiring any time soon. He’s provided us with a lot of thrills.”
Added Weitman, “He doesn’t owe us anything.”