Hot Springs, AR (SportsNetwork.com) - Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert's Hoppertunity survived an inquiry and objection to win Saturday's $600,000 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park.
The 1 1/16-mile Rebel is a prep for the $1 million Arkansas Derby on April 12. The win was worth 50 points to Hoppertunity toward a place in this year's Kentucky Derby.
The victory by Hoppertunity was Baffert's fourth in the last five editions of the Rebel. The trainer gained wins previously with Lookin At Lucky (2010), The Factor (2011) and Secret Circle (2012).
Ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, Hoppertunity was pressing the pace being set by 2-1 co-favorite Strong Mandate and Ride On Curlin from the outside. Racing along with Hoppertunity along the inside was co-favorite Tapiture, winner of Oaklawn's Southwest Stakes.
Those four 3-year-olds were across the track with a furlong to run. Ride On Curlin was along the rail, next to him was Strong Mandate with Tapiture next and Hoppertunity four wide.
Approaching the wire, the four runners began to bang against each other with Tapiture appearing to get the worst of the contact.
Hoppertunity, the 6-1 fourth choice, posted a half-length victory over Tapiture followed by 11-1 longshot Ride On Curlin and Strong Mandate. Sheltowee's Boy, Street Strategy, 3-1 third pick Kobe's Back and Jet Cat completed the order of finish.
The time for the Rebel was 1:43.90 on a 'wet fast' track.
The stewards made no change in the order of finish after reviewing the race.
Hoppertunity, owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, picked up his first stakes victory in just his fourth career start, all this year. The colt earned $360,000 and has banked $410,720 overall.
The son of Any Given Saturday was coming off a fourth-place finish in the Risen Star Stakes, ridden by Martin Garcia, three weeks ago at Fair Grounds. He was ridden by Smith for the first time in the Rebel.
"Last time, it was unfortunate that he got shuffled back a little further than we wanted him to be," assistant trainer Jim Barnes noted. "He was running at the end, but he had so much ground to make that he needed to be another five or six lengths closer than he was. But, he handled it well."
Hoppertunity returned $14.20, $5.80 and $4.20. Tapiture paid $3.80 and $2.60, and Ride On Curlin paid $4.60 to show.