Hoppertunity wins Jockey Club Gold Cup; Breeders’ Cup next

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NEW YORK — Hoppertunity, trained by Bob Baffert, made a successful trip from California to Belmont Park on Saturday to win the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup and secure a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

He will once again face California Chrome in the $6 million Classic, Nov. 5 at Santa Anita. California Chrome has already beaten Hoppertunity three times this year, most recently in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar in August.

Baffert opted for a change of venue, and it paid off with a half length win over Effinex.

“We always thought in our minds that he would like these big turns here and this big, deep track where he would have a chance to come from behind,” said Jimmy Barnes, Baffert’s assistant trainer who accompanied the horse.

Hoppertunity saved ground for most of the 1 1/4 miles as Effinex and Protonico set the pace. John Velazquez angled Hoppertunity three wide for the stretch drive and the 5-year-old responded with his sixth win in 22 starts.

The time was 2:00.63, and Hoppertunity paid $9.60, $4 and $2.60.

Effinex, the 6-5 favorite, returned $3 and $2.20. Protonico held on for third, paying $3.80.

Mubtaahij was fourth followed by Watershed.

Trainer Chad Brown was the big winner on the second of Belmont’s Super Saturdays of prep races leading to the Breeders’ Cup.

Brown won three stakes, including a 1-2-3 sweep in the $500,000 Hill Prince Stakes for 3-year-olds on the turf as Camelot Kitten ($8 to win) edged Beach Patrol with Annals of Time third.

Irad Ortiz Jr. guided Camelot Kitten to his fifth win in 10 starts.

Practical Joke ($7.90) insured Brown would have a starter in the $2 million Juvenile with a hard-fought victory by a nose in the $500,000 Champagne for 2-year-olds with Joel Rosario in the saddle.

He will head to Santa Anita with a 3-for-3 record.

It was a tough week to be a Syndergaard. First Noah Syndergaard and Mets lost to the Giants in the NL Wildcard game.

Then his namesake Syndergaard was second in the photo finish of the Champagne.

In Brown’s most heartwarming moment, Lady Eli ($3.70) captured the first race in her comeback from a major illness, and nailed down a return trip to the Breeders’ Cup, with a three-quarters of a length win over Sentiero Italia in the $500,000 Flower Bowl for older fillies and mares on the turf.

Lady Eli, winner of the 2014 Juvenile Fillies Turf, will compete this time in the $2 million Filly & Mare Turf. She missed over a year recovering from a potentially fatal bout of laminitis, a foot disease.

Lady Eli returned in late August to run second in the Ballston Spa at Saratoga.

It was the fourth Flower Bowl win in the last six years for Brown.

In other stakes results: Yellow Agate ($4.70) secured a spot in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies with a head victory over Libby’s Tail in the $400,000 Frizette for 2-year-old fillies.

She is 2 for 2 in her brief career for the team of trainer Christophe Clement and jockey Manny Franco.

-Anchor Down ($6.40) set the pace on his way to two-length win in the $350,000 Kelso for milers.

Javier Castellano was aboard for trainer Todd Pletcher as the gray 5-year-old posted the biggest win of his career. Pletcher said the next start would be the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile or the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct.

-Pure Sensation ($6.30) edged Power Alert by a head in the $150,000 Turf Sprint Invitational.

Baffert hoping Arrogate gives him third Dubai World Cup win

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Having taken over the mantle as the world’s best racehorse from California Chrome, Arrogate will attempt on Saturday to wear another crown that last fitted his illustrious American compatriot, the Dubai World Cup.

All eyes are on the 4-year-old Arrogate, who lost on debut 11 months ago but hasn’t lost since.

He’s won the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the inaugural $12 million Pegasus World Cup this year to stretch his unbeaten streak to six. In both races, Arrogate defeated Chrome, who won the Dubai World Cup last year at Meydan Racecourse by five lengths despite jockey Victor Espinoza hanging on to a loose saddle for most of it.

Under jockey Mike Smith, Arrogate has forged a winning combination in his last three Group 1 races: Travers Stakes, Breeders’ Cup Classic and Pegasus World Cup.

In Dubai, they have drawn stall nine among 14 contenders, a position which fails to douse the confidence of his trainer Bob Baffert.

“Nine is fine,” said Baffert, who also trained 2015 U.S. Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.

“He’s settled in pretty well. As long as he shows up, that’s the key. If he runs his race, we know what he can do.”

Smith was all praise for his mount, ranked the No. 1 racehorse in the world.

“I have been blessed with some really, really good horses, but I am not sure I have ever sit on one like this,” Smith said.

“Everything about him, his disposition, his mechanics, the way he gets over the ground … at times you feel as if you are running downhill instead of a level ground. What amazes me most is when the race is over, it looks as if he did not put much effort into it. His recovery time is so quick.”

Arrogate’s Breeders’ Cup Classic and Pegasus World Cup wins came over 2,000 meters on dirt, the same distance and conditions as the $10 million Dubai World Cup.

Baffert hopes Arrogate can give him a third Dubai World Cup victory after Silver Charm (1998) and Captain Steve (2001).

He suffered a heart attack during his last visit to Dubai in 2012, and watched the World Cup five nights later with stents in two of his blocked arteries. He also watched from even farther afield last year as his other horse, Hoppertunity, finished third behind Chrome and Mike de Kock’s Mubtaahij.

He’s giving Hoppertunity another chance.

“Both my horses are happy and healthy,” Baffert said. “He (Hoppertunity) should be collecting a check again. That is what he does, picks up the pieces in these big races. He reminds me of Pac-Man, he just keeps going. A Dubai World Cup 1-2, that would be something.”

Mubtaahij is also back, although he will start under Christophe Soumillon from the widest of stalls.

“Like everyone, we wanted low,” the Belgian jockey said. “I will have to … hope for some luck.”

The Dubai World Cup features a nine-race card offering $30 million across six Group 1 and three Group 2 races on turf and dirt.

Six three-year-olds nominated late to Triple Crown series

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Thunder Snow, winner of the UAE 2000 Guineas, is among six 3-year-olds made eligible to compete in the Triple Crown series during the late nomination period.

The late nominees, which required a payment of $6,000 each, raise the total nominations to 425 for the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes. The late nomination period closed Monday. The early nomination window closed in January and required a payment of $600.

Ireland-bred Thunder Snow, owned by Godolphin Racing, is set to run Saturday in the $2 million UAE Derby in Dubai. The colt has three wins in seven career starts for trainer Saeed bin Suroor.

The other late nominees are Hollywood Handsome, trained by Dallas Stewart; More Than Words, trained by Charlie LoPresti; Parlor, trained by Eddie Kenneally; Rapid Dial, trained by Ingrid Mason; and Stretch’s Stone, trained by Bruce Levine.

Thoroughbreds that weren’t nominated to the Triple Crown have one final chance by paying a supplemental fee. The fee for the Derby is $200,000; $150,000 for the Preakness; and $75,000 for the Belmont.