December 6, 2022

Distance specialist Hoppertunity the one to beat in Cougar II

Hoppertunity with Flavien Plat aboard powers to victory in the Brooklyn Invitational (G2) on Bemont Stakes Saturday, June 9, 2018, at Belmont Park (c) Photos by Z

Winner in both outings this season over 1 1/2 miles, Hoppertunity will look to make it three straight Wednesday at Del Mar in the $100,000 Cougar II H. (G3).

The multiple Grade 1-winning Bob Baffert trainee will carry top weight of 125 pounds in the Cougar II, in part a reflection on his victories earlier this season in the Tokyo City (G3) at Santa Anita and the Brooklyn (G2) at Belmont Park.

Hoppertunity returned to Belmont earlier this month for the Suburban (G2) over 1 1/4 miles, but the 2016 Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) winner wound up a distant fourth after spotting the leaders 15 lengths following a troubled start.

While Hoppertunity is the class of the field, he did not place in three prior starts at Del Mar, albeit against tougher company. He ran fourth in the 2015 San Diego H. (G2) and Pacific Classic (G1), and in the 2016 Pacific Classic.

Prince of Arabia, a distant second in the Californian (G2) two back, looks a potential threat as does Beach View, fourth in the 2017 Tokyo City in his last try on dirt. The latter may apply early pressure to likely pace setter Little Scotty.

Twentytwentyvision finished a distant second to Hoppertunity in this year’s Tokyo City, while Full of Luck won over this distance in lat year’s Chilean Derby (G1) but did not place in either attempt on dirt since his importation.

The Cougar II is named for the 1972 champion turf horse who won two of his three stakes appearances at the 1970 Del Mar meet.