IN HIS FIRST STAKES TRY, HOPPER GALLOPS BY 5 ¼ LENGTHS IN GRADE III, $100,000 AFFIRMED STAKES AS McCARTHY RUNNERS FINISH 1-2
PINCAY PRESENTS TROPHY FOR RACE NAMED IN HONOR OF 1978 TRIPLE CROWN CHAMP
ARCADIA, Calif.—With the legendary Laffit Pincay, Jr. on hand to present the trophy for the race named in honor of racing’s 1978 Triple Crown Champion, trainer Sean McCarthy was set to pass the proverbial baton back to Bob Baffert following Saturday’s Grade III, $100,000 Affirmed Stakes at Santa Anita, as his one-two finishers, Hopper and High Connection, will be returning to the currently suspended Baffert early next month. As for today’s results, Hopper, in only his third career start, made short work of three rivals, two of them originally conditioned by Baffert, as he showed the way throughout en route to an emphatic 5 ¼ length score under Abel Cedillo, covering a mile and one sixteenth in 1:43.83.
Quick from the blocks, Hopper was in total command from his rail post with Doppelganger in close attendance in the run up the backside, but with Drayden Van Dyke asking him, Doppelganger could never get on terms around the far turn and Hopper strode clear through the lane with High Connection just up for the place.
“I saw Juan (Hernandez) asking the other horse (High Connection) at about the three and a half to get into contention and Doppelganger was moving at the same time, but Hopper was just cruising on the front end, so I had pretty good feeling,” said McCarthy, who also addressed the pending return of Hopper to the Bob Baffert Stable in early July.
“With either one of these two, Hopper and High Connection, it’ll be a Del Mar plan I would imagine. What it is, I don’t know, but I would assume that’s where they’re going to be heading and you know, by that time, I’m out of the picture.
“But it was really neat for me today, because I was just a huge Affirmed fan. He was one of the greatest horses of all time. On the bus to school, half the guys were Alydar fans and half of them were Affirmed fans. I know it’s a Grade III and a $100,000, but it’s really special, especially with Laffit here to present the trophy.”
Well beaten in his six furlong turf debut for Baffert on Feb. 25, Hopper, in his first start for McCarthy, switched to the main track here on May 7 and responded with a 2 ¼ length maiden score with Hernandez up.
Ridden for the first time today by Cedillo, Hopper was the third choice in the wagering among four sophomores and paid $8.60 and $4.00 with no show wagering.
A modest $90,000 Keeneland September Yearling, Hopper, who is by Declaration of War and is out of the Caesour mare Irridescence, is owned by Lanni Bloodstock, SF Racing, LLC and Madaket Stables, LLC. With today’s winner’s share of $60,000, he increased his earnings to $100,700.
“I never rode the horse, Sean, he doesn’t use jockeys to work in the mornings,” said Cedillo. “I watched his last race and he was sharp. So the key was just to get a good break and take it from there. When I left the gate, he was just so relaxed, I was confident with him.”
Off at even money, High Connection finished a half length in front of Doppelganger and paid $3.00 to show.
Trained by Tim Yakteen, Doppelganger finished a distance in front of Pioneering Papa as the second choice at 7-5.
Fractions on the race were 23.37, 46.74, 1:10.99 and 1:37.28.
Hopper’s Affirmed win marked Cedillo’s second stakes score of the meet and with a subsequent win in Sunday’s ninth race, his fourth win on the day, giving him 44 total.
Racing resumes with first post time for a 10-race card on Santa Anita’s Winter/Spring Meet penultimate Sunday at 1 p.m.
Santa Anita Press Release
Photo: Benoit Photo