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    Hoppertunity, making his second start off a six-month layoff, won the Grade 1 $500,000 Clark Handicap for trainer Bob Baffert and owner Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Wellman. The win gave Baffert his third Clark victory, having taken the 1996 edition with Isitingood and 1998 with Silver Charm. Hoppertunity was the 54th 3-year-old to win the Clark in 140 runnings.

    Baffert's Hoppertunity may have been a Kentucky Derby favorite, but fate took away the Mike Pegram-owned colt's opportunity when a foot bruise caused the colt to scratch days before the race. Fate returned to offer Hoppertunity another chance at grade one victory in Friday's Clark Handicap. This time, the Any Given Saturday colt was healthy and ready. 

    Sitting just behind front-runner Constitution, favored Hoppertunity was able to plod along at an easy pace of 24.30 for the first quarter and 49.04 for the second. Around the far turn, Hoppertunity made his move, drawing up to Constitution at the quarter pole. As the pair battled down the stretch with Constitution on the inside, Hoppertunity drew clear, holding off a late charge from 7-1 Protonico to earn his first grade one win by a half-length. Constitution  was another 1 1/4-lengths back in third. It was six lengths back to Pick of the Litter in fourth.

    Baffert, attending the UCLA-Stanford game, spoke to media by phone and said he pulled up his HRTV account to watch the race on his phone. Although the transmission was slightly delayed, Baffert said he knew when he saw Hoppertunity 50 yards from the wire that he had held on to win because he'd started receiving congratulatory texts on his phone.  

    "I knew this one was a fighter," said owner Mike Pegram. "There's one thing about it: Bobby Baffert doesn't run too many short horses. And this horse wasn't short today. When he was challenged, he had a little more left. It was just a good feeling. I love Kentucky!"

    Todd Pletcher, trainer of the second and third place finishers, said, "Constitution was maybe just a tad headstrong and Churchill is not always the most speed-conducive track, so I would have liked to see him settle just a touch more. But I thought he showed some guts when those horses came to him and he kept trying.

    "Protonico, I thought it was another big effort from him. He's becoming more and more consistent and I think he's continuing to work his way up the ranks."

    Hoppertunity returned $6.40, $4.60, and $3.40. Protonico paid $6.00 and $4.40 and completed the $2 exacta for $64. Constitution paid $3.60 and completed the $2 trifecta for $300.80. Pick of the Litter completed the $2 superfecta for $1,540.60. The final time for the 1 1/8 mile race over the fast dirt was 1:49.88.

    Jessie Oswald's picture

    About Jessie Oswald

    I'm a lifetime Louisville resident with a passion for horse racing. When I'm not working as a paralegal or taking care of my family, I follow Thoroughbred racing and love to share the excitement and beauty of the sport with anyone willing to learn!

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