OffTrackBetting.com - The Grade 3 Cougar II Handicap comes our way this Sunday, July 24 from Del Mar Race Track in Del Mar, California. Horses three years old and upward will take to Del Mar's dirt track and race 1 1/2 miles searching for the winner's portion of the $100,000 purse.
A field of six have been confirmed for the Cougar II Handicap - race 4 on Del Mar's Sunday schedule. Post time is 3:40 PM. Here is a peek into the past performances of all six combatants for this intriguing Grade 3 stakes.
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Hoppertunity 7-5 - Bob Baffert trainee was one of the favorites for the 2014 Kentucky Derby but missed that race. He won the 2015 San Pasqual Stakes January 10 and the Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs November 28, 2014. He enters off a somewhat disappointing fourth in the Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita after a respectable third place finish behind California Chrome in the $10 million Group 1 Dubai World Cup at Meydan March 24, a good win in the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes at Santa Anita February 6, an OK third behind California Chrome in the Grade 2 San Pasqual Stakes January 9 and three straight runner-up finishes - the 2015 Clark Handicap November 27, the Grade 2 Haygard Fayette Stakes October 30 at Keeneland and the Grade 1 Awesome Again Stakes in September. Hoppertunity has five wins, six seconds and four third place finishes in 20 starts overall, has finished no worse than fourth in 12 graded tries and has placed in six of his last seven graded/group stakes races ahead of this weekend - competitive every time out. Flavien Prat has been tabbed with getting Hoppertunity just his second win in 18 months from post 3 Sunday as the slight morning line favorite.
Hard Aces 8-5 - John Sadler trainee won the 2015 Gold Cup at Santa Anita in upset fashion but hasn't posted victory in nine starts since. He has been OK lately - a third last time out in the 2016 Gold Cup at Santa Anita June 25 followed a respectable second behind Melatonin in the Grade 2 Californian Stakes here May 22, a disappointing seventh in the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic April 23, a decent second with an impressive 101 Beyer Speed Figure in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap March 12, a fifth in the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes February 6, a fourth in the Grade 2 San Pasqual Stakes January 9, a sixth in the Breeders' Cup Classic, a sixth in the Grade 1 Awesome Again Stakes September 26 and another disappointing sixth in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar August 22. Hard Aces now has six wins, five seconds and eight third place finishes in 32 career starts and has placed in just three of his last nine starts overall but three of four ahead of this week. Santiago Gonzales will be in the reins of the morning line second choice hoping for Hard Aces first win in over a year from post 5. He is cross-entered in the San Diego Handicap on Saturday.
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Quick Casablanca 4-1 - Chilean bred Ronald McAnally was terrific at home placing in all 11 starts including a win in the Group 1 Asociacion Latinoamericana in 2012. He was OK once he arrived in North America - a win in the Grade 3 Last Tycoon Stakes in April, 2014 and a second in the Grade 2 San Juan Capistrano Stakes two months later being the best results. He failed to place in five starts in 2015 but has been better in 2016. Last time out was a disappointment however - a seventh place finish in the Grade 2 Charles Whittingham Stakes at Santa Anita May 29 which followed a win in the Grade 3 San Juan Capistrano April 10, a second in the Grade 2 San Luis Rey Stakes March 13 and a third in the Grade 2 San Marcos Stakes in February. Quick Casablanca had been seriously trending upward before last time out and will be after a strong bounce back Sunday as the third betting choice from the outside gate 6.
Seve's Road 8-1 - Phil D'Amato trained gelding has two wins, two seconds and two third place finishes in 10 career starts and makes his stakes debut Sunday. Last time out was an Allowance Optional Claiming score May 21 after a sixth, a ninth and a seventh respectively in a trio of Allowance Optional Claiming races. Seve's Road enters off a career-best effort but takes an enormous step up in competition Sunday. Rafael Bejarano will be in the reins from gate 4.
Energia Fribby 10-1 - Brazilian bred Neil Drysdale trained mare has five wins, four seconds and four third place finishes in 22 career starts. She spent the majority of her career overseas and had limited success including off-the-board finishes in two Group 2 stakes at Meydan. She has seven starts in North America - consecutive fourths ahead of this week - in the minor Perfectly Perfect Stakes last time out June 12 and the Grade 3 San Juan Capistrano Stakes in April - both at Santa Anita. Before that was a third in the Grade 2 San Luis Rey Stakes, a second in the minor Astra Stakes January 17 and a ninth in the Grade 3 Red Carpet Handicap at Del Mar November 21. Energia Fribby has placed in just three of her last 10 starts overall and hasn't won since September, 2014. Drayden Van Dyke will be in the reins hoping to change all of that from gate 2.
Infobedad 15-1 - Argentinean bred John Sadler pupil has four wins, two seconds and three third place finishes in 20 starts at home - he his last on-the-board finish came nearly a year ago. He failed to place in his last four starts at home. Infobedad has just one starts in North America - a seventh in an Allowance Optional Claiming at Santa Anita June 12. He hasn't been all that impressive the last year and hopes for a major breakthrough Sunday from the rail. Joe Talamo has been tabbed to ride.