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.

Triple Crown winner Justify to resume training in California

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ARCADIA, Calif. — Triple Crown champion Justify has returned to his base at Santa Anita accompanied by a police escort and was greeted by trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Mike Smith.

The winner of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont flew from Louisville, Kentucky, to Ontario, California, on Sunday. After landing, four Arcadia Police Department units traveled with the 13th Triple Crown winner to the racetrack.

After winning the Belmont in New York on June 9, Justify returned to Churchill Downs, where he and his human connections were honored on Saturday night.

Justify will resume training this week and be paraded between races this weekend.

NBC presents 22 hours of daily live coverage of Royal Ascot

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STAMFORD, Conn. – June 14, 2018 – NBC Sports presents daily live coverage of the Royal Meeting in Ascot, Berkshire, England  – one of the most prestigious horse racing meets in the world – including the first-ever NBC broadcast of the race on Saturday, June 23, at 9 a.m. ET. Live coverage of the event begins Tuesday, June 19, at 8:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN, with daily telecasts of the full five-day Royal meeting on NBCSN through Friday, June 22. In total, NBC Sports Group will present 22 hours of coverage over the five days.

Royal Ascot is one of the world’s most valuable horse racing events, attracting many of the world’s finest racehorses.  The event features 30 races, including eight at the world championship “Group One” level. Highlighting the American contingent is trainer Wesley Ward, who has won nine races at Royal Ascot over the years. He is scheduled to bring 10 horses to Ascot this year, highlighted by Lady Aurelia, who is looking to win her third straight race at The Royal Meeting. She races in the King’s Stand on Tuesday during NBCSN’s first day of coverage.

The Royal Meeting is the center of the British social season and a pivotal week in the calendar of the Royal Family, who arrive every day by the world famous “Royal Procession” – with the first carriage carrying The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.

NBC News’ Dylan Dreyer makes her Royal Ascot debut on Friday and Saturday, alongside Nick Luck, who will host coverage for all five days. On Friday morning, June 22, Dreyer will report live from Berkshire on TODAY.

Following is NBC Sports’ schedule for the Royal Ascot next week:

Date Time (ET) Show Network
Tues., June 19 8:30 a.m. Royal Ascot NBCSN
Wed., June 20 8:30 a.m. Royal Ascot NBCSN
Thurs., June 21 8:30 a.m. Royal Ascot NBCSN
Fri., June 22 8:30 a.m. Royal Ascot NBCSN
Sat., June 23 9 a.m. Royal Ascot NBC

NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app – NBC Sports Group’s live streaming product for desktops, mobile devices, tablets, and connected TVs – will stream coverage of the Royal Meeting. The NBC Sports app will stream coverage via “TV Everywhere,” giving consumers additional value to their subscription service, and making high-quality content available to MVPD customers both in and out of the home and on multiple platforms. Powered by Playmaker Media, the NBC Sports app is available on Apple iOS, Android and select Samsung devices, as well as on Amazon Fire, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, Win10, and Xbox.

NBC SPORTS GROUP AND HORSE RACING: In addition to the Royal Ascot, NBC Sports Group is the exclusive home to the most important and prestigious events in horse racing, including the Triple Crown and the Breeders’ Cup. Also in 2018, NBC Sports Group televised the world’s richest horse race (the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational) and the $10 million Dubai World Cup, and in June presented the Epsom Derby. NBC has been the exclusive home of the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes since 2001, and the Belmont Stakes since 2011, when NBC Sports Group reassembled the Triple Crown.