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Baffert Wheels Hoppertunity Back Quickly in Gold Cup

Baffert Wheels Hoppertunity Back Quickly in Gold Cup: Hoppertunity starts for Triple Crown-winning trainer Bob Baffert as one of the featured horses in the Gold Cup (GI) at Santa Anita Park on Saturday. Wait, Hoppertunity is running? He ran two weeks ago at Churchill Downs in the Stephen Foster (GI)! There is no mistake. Hoppertunity is going for the gold on short rest and with a good chance to win.

Hoppertunity and Martin Garcia

Hoppertunity and jockey Martin Garcia, pictured above winning the San Pasqual Stakes in 2014, team up again for trainer Bob baffert in The Gold Cup at Santa Anita Park on Saturday, June 27, 2015. Photo: Benoit

The Gold Cup, run at the traditional classic distance of 10 furlongs, is the new version of the former Hollywood Gold Cup held at Hollywood Park until 2013. Since then, Hollywood Park has been shut down and bulldozed. Plans are vague for the site, but most believe an existing NFL team will eventually make Inglewood their home where the racetrack once stood. Essentially, this makes the Gold Cup another version of the Santa Anita Handicap run in March every year.

Back to Hoppertunity, running without a significant break for this race is actually a good sign. He just lost the Stephen Foster by over five lengths, and Baffert is eager to run him again? For Hoppertunity to come back off short rest must mean the four-year-old colt is healthy and feeling well. Knowing a horse’s health is part of handicapping.

Furthermore, having a recent race under his belt gives a fitness edge. Think about the numerous runners from the Kentucky Derby that run well in the Preakness after only two weeks. Also, Hoppertunity only ran three times this year, which means he is far from being overraced.

Santa Anita’s version of the Gold Cup lacks any huge names for this edition, and Hoppertunity proved his class by winning the Clark Handicap (GI) at Churchill Downs back in November. In addition, he was once considered a Derby contender last year until an injury knocked him out late. From post position six, Hoppertunity will receive a good trip sitting off the expected quick tempo led by Big Cazanova and Moreno. Jockey Martin Garcia can place him closer too.

Hoppertunity

Hoppertunity coming out of the trailer after American Pharoah at Santa Anita Park on Thursday, June 18, 2015. Photo: Reinier Macatangay

Two spots to the right, Moreno makes his fifth start of the year after barely missing against Catch a Flight in the Californian (GII). Despite acting like a “need-the-lead” runner last year, Moreno performed well without the lead. He sat off the pace set by Big Cazanova and overtook his opponent in the stretch. Meanwhile, after Moreno made the first move, Catch a Flight took advantage of the hot tempo and overtook Moreno. But, Moreno kept fighting. If only the speed-crazy Big Cazanova was not entered here too, Moreno would take the top spot.

One more stall to the right, the Argentine-bred Catch a Flight will attempt to capture his third straight win, and his third graded stakes win of the year. His upside feels questionable, as he keeps winning by very short margins. Hall of Fame-jockey Gary Stevens gave Catch a Flight a good ride in his last start and returns to guide the horse for this race. Backers will undoubtedly be treated to another close one if Catch a Flight contends for the win. Just do not expect a 10-length romp, as his talent level is not much higher than most of these horses.

From a betting standpoint, backing Hoppertunity could end up unattractive due to his popularity and because Baffert won the Triple Crown a few weeks ago. Then again, with two straight losses over five lengths plaguing his record, maybe the public will fall on Moreno and Catch a Flight as the co-favorites. If that happens, then Hoppertunity is a good option on top. Those brave enough can even toss out Moreno and Catch a Flight, and single Hoppertunity in horizontal wagers. If playing the trifecta, think about Hard Aces and Finnegans Wake as longshot closers to include underneath.

Related Links:
American Pharoah Parades Between 7th & 8th Race
Moreno Seeks First Classic Distance Win in Gold Cup

The Gold Cup 2015 Post Positions & Odds
Race 9 5:00 PM PT
1 Batti Man 30-1 Perez/Mulhall
2 Hard Aces 12-1 Espinoza/Sadler
3 Poshsky 30-1 Prat/Miller
4 Motown Men 6-1 Baze/West
5 Majestic City 12-1 Lopez/Baltas
6 Hoppertunity 7-2 Garcia/Baffert
7 Big Cazanova 12-1 Nakatani/Miller
8 Moreno 7-2 Velasquez/Guillot
9 Catch a Flight 5-2 Stevens/Mandella
10 Lideris 50-1 Talamo/Miller
11 Finnegans Wake 6-1 Smith/Miller

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