Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman’s Hoppertunity, who exited Friday’s Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) in “good shape” after a runner-up effort behind Effinex, will be pointed toward to the $10 million Dubai World Cup (Group I) on March 26 at Meydan Racecourse, according to trainer Bob Baffert.
“That’s our long-term goal,” Baffert said via telephone on Saturday morning. “He’ll go back to California and we’ll start getting him ready for Dubai.”
Baffert’s chief assistant Jimmy Barnes, who saddled the horse in Friday’s race, was pleased with the son of Any Given Saturday’s performance.
“I think that he ran well considering that the track was a little bit speed-biased,” Barnes said. “It was kind of hard to make up any ground on it. Had it been a normal racetrack I think we would’ve beaten the other horse [Effinex].”
CHANGE IN RIDING INSTRUCTIONS PAYS OFF FOR LOOKS TO SPARE – A simple change in riding instructions made all the difference for Looks To Spare in Friday’s Clark Handicap (GI) after the Illinois-bred son of Pollard’s Vision finished a close third as the longest shot in the field at 88-1 odds.
Trainer Otabek Umarov, a native of Tashkent, Uzbekistan, told jockey Victor Lebron to lay closer to the pace than he did in previous starts.
“In the last few races, I always told the jockey to just fall back and come from behind,” Umarov said. “That was my mistake on my part. Every time he came back he was always fresh. I knew that he still could run and handle the tough races. So [Friday] I told the jockey [Victor Lebron] to stay close and make his move when everyone makes their move and that’s what happened. In these graded stakes races, all of these horses who take the lead seem to stay close to wire a lot of the time. That’s what I have learned. So from now on, he’s going to stay close and I think we’re going to be running well. You’re not going to see him next time as a longshot, maybe 20-1 or something like that.”
He claimed Looks To Spare for $5,000 from trainer Tammy Domenosky in April after a wire-to-wire victory at Hawthorne.
“I just saw that the horse had a big heart and that he tries hard every time he runs,” Umarov said. “I thought that he just simply needed to be trained properly. I’m so happy with this horse that I claimed for $5,000 is running well in all of these tough races.”
Umarov hasn’t given a whole lot of thought into where the horse would run next.
“I’d like to go somewhere like Oaklawn or Gulfstream where he can run,” he said. “We’ll see what happens. I want to give him a bit of time off. A horse like this needs to be taken good care of. The important thing is to keep him healthy and sound and he’ll run well again, I think. I don’t think I’ll turn him out, just walk him around the shed row. He likes to be in the barn. He’s a very social horse.”
While a next start has yet to be planned out, Umarov has the $1.5 million Charles Town Classic (GII) on the horse’s radar.
“We for sure want to run at Charles Town,” he said. “There’s some other races at Oaklawn Park that I’m looking at going as well, but we want to run there [Charles Town Classic] for sure. He was never nominated for the Breeders’ Cup so even if we wanted to run, we would have to pay $100,000 which is a lot of money. There are plenty of other races out there. There’s a long way to go.”
AHH CHOCOLATE TO GET ‘WELL-DESERVED BREAK’ AFTER FALLS CITY ‘CAP TRIUMPH – Stoneway Farms’ Ahh Chocolate will get a “well-deserved break” after her 1 ½-legnth victory in Thanksgiving Day’s Falls City Handicap (GII).
“She’ll get turned out for at least 30 days,” said trainer Neil Howard. “I think she deserves a nice little rest. It’s all conjecture but you would think that she would be better as she gets more mature. I hope that’s the case, but you never know.”
This was the first graded stakes victory that Howard won for owner Jim Stone’s Stoneway Farm.
“We were thrilled,” Howard said. “They were over the moon as they should be. They spend a lot of money. They have these farms and breed these horses. The well-being of their horses is paramount to them and it’s nice to see. I’m just glad to have them apart of the team. They’ve been very good to me.”
DOWN THE STRETCH – A 2016 Churchill Downs Wall Calendar will be given away to the first 5,000 in attendance for Sunday’s closing day card, courtesy of Humana.
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