Hoppertunity (outside) outfinished Tapiture (middle) and Ride on Curlin (inside) to win the $600,000 Rebel Stakes on Saturday at Oaklawn Park. (Coady Photography)
Several minutes of suspense followed a roughly run stretch drive in the $600,000 Rebel Stakes on Saturday at Oaklawn Park, but in the end it was a familiar outcome in the key local prep for the $1 million Arkansas Derby.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s Hoppertunity held off game Southwest Stakes winner Tapiture by a half-length, giving Baffert his fourth win in the Rebel in the last five years. Baffert won the Rebel with Lookin At Lucky in 2010, The Factor in 2011 and Secret Circle in 2012.
Hoppertunity stalked from third behind Grade 1 winner Strong Mandate and Ride On Curlin and launched his winning bid under Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith entering the stretch. Tapiture had no clear path to the finish line at the top of the stretch but jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. pushed his way between Strong Mandate on the inside and Hoppertunity on the outside to set up a four-horse battle to the finish line.
Inside the eighth pole, Hoppertunity brushed with Tapiture when it looked like Ride On Curlin came out a bit into Strong Mandate. Hoppertunity dug in determinedly on the outside and Tapiture also finished strongly with Hoppertunity inching ahead in the closing strides for the victory.
Following a stewards’ inquiry and a jockey’s claim of foul by Santana, the claim was disallowed and the result made official.
HOPPERTUNITY INCHES AWAY FROM TAPITURE
A bay colt by 2007 Haskell Invitational Stakes winner Any Given Saturday, Hoppertunity completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.90 with an impressive final sixteenth of a mile in :06.32. He improved to two wins from four career starts for owners Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman, who also raced the aforementioned Lookin At Lucky and Secret Circle.
The 50 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard moved Hoppertunity up to second place with 55 points. He earned five points for finishing fourth in the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes on Feb. 22 in his previous race.
Tapiture earned 20 points and moved up to seventh with 42 total points. Ride On Curlin ranks 14th with 15 and Strong Mandate improved to 20th with the field for the Kentucky Derby, which is restricted to 20 starters.
Baffert plucked Hoppertunity out of the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale for $300,000 as agent for his current owners. He is a half-brother (same dam [mother], different sire [father]) to Executiveprivilege, who won a pair of Grade 1 races in 2012 for the team of Baffert, Pegram, Watson and Weitman. Hoppertunity’s third dam (maternal great-grandmother) is 1979 champion 3-year-old filly Davona Dale, a 1985 inductee into the Racing Hall of Fame.
For an Equibase chart, click here.
THRILLING REBEL FINISH