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OffTrackBetting.com - Top older horses Accelerate, Hoppertunity, Mubtaahij and Giant Expectations head a field of eight older horses set to run a mile and a quarter in Saturday's Grade I, $600,000 Santa Anita Handicap. The 81st running of the legendary Big 'Cap is one of four graded stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita Park that help to comprise a blockbuster 11-race program that will begin with a special early first post time of 12 noon.
Trained by John Sadler, Accelerate, fresh off a 1 ¾ length victory in the Grade II, 1 1/8 miles San Pasqual Stakes Feb. 3, will vie for favoritism with Bob Baffert's venerable Hoppertunity, the leading money earner in the field with more than $4.3 million, Baffert's Irish-bred Mubtaahij, who is proven at the Big 'Cap distance and trainer Peter Eurton's Giant Expectations, a dazzling gate to wire winner of the Grade II, 1 1/16 miles San Antonio Stakes two starts back on Dec. 26.
Race 10 on Santa Anita's Saturday card with a Post Time of 8:00 PM
|1||Top of the Game||10-1||Kent Desormeaux||Vladimir Cerin|
|2||Prime Attraction||8-1||Tiago Pereira||James Cassidy|
|3||Curlin Road||12-1||Tyler Baze||Doug O'Neill|
|4||Giant Expectations||5-1||Corey Nakatani||Peter Eurton|
|5||Hoppertunity||7-2||Flavien Prat||Bob Baffert|
|6||Fear the Cowboy||3-1||Javier Castellano||Efren Loza, Jr.|
|7||Accelerate||5-2||Victor Espinoza||John Sadler|
|8||Mubtaahij (IRE)||4-1||Mike Smith||Bob Baffert|
Owner: Mike Pegram, Karl Watson & Paul Weitman
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Masterfully managed by Baffert in what is now his fifth racing season, "Hop," at age seven, will be making his first-ever Big 'Cap appearance. Although winless in four starts since taking the Grade II San Antonio Stakes on Feb. 4, 2017, Hoppertunity, who was well beaten by superstar stablemate Arrogate four races back in the Dubai World Cup on March 25, 2017, appears to be back on his game for Baffert and looms very dangerous on Saturday.
Third, beaten 1 ½ lengths two starts back in the one turn 1 1/8 miles Grade I Clarke Handicap at Churchill Downs Nov. 24, he couldn't make up any ground on front-running Giant Expectations in Dec. 26 San Antonio, a race in which he finished fourth, beaten four lengths. With a solid work tab to his credit, he along with stablemate Mubtaahij, will try to provide Baffert with his sixth Big 'Cap victory.
Owner: Hronis Racing, LLC
Trainer: John Sadler
Second, beaten 3 ¼ lengths by Giant Expectations two starts back in the San Antonio, this 5-year-old son of Lookin At Lucky was attentive to the early pace in the San Pasqual while overcoming traffic trouble down the backside en route to a solid victory. A big third in his only other try at a mile and a quarter (four starts back in the Grade I Pacific Classic on Aug. 19), a race in which he earned a career-best 110 Beyer Speed figure, Accelerate has recency, tactical speed and solid connections in his corner as he tries the Big 'Cap for the first time in what will be his 17th career start.
Owner: Exline-Border Racing, LLC, Gatto Racing, LLC and Zubok, et al
Trainer: Peter Eurton
Dismissed at 13-1, Gary Stevens shot to the lead aboard this 5-year-old New York-bred in the Grade II San Antonio Stakes two starts back never looked back, as he cruised to a 3 ¼ length win. "We won the race around the first turn," said Stevens. Subsequently entered in the Grade I Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park, he drew the highly disadvantageous outside post position 12 going 1 1/8 miles and after being a close third early, weakened readily to finish ninth, beaten 18 lengths by Horse of the Year Gun Runner.
With a return to his home court and what his connections hope is a reasonable pace scenario, Giant Expectations will be trying the deep waters of a mile and a quarter for the first time on Saturday.
Owner: Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum
Trainer: Bob Baffert
A winner of the Grade I, 1 1/8 miles Awesome Again Stakes here four starts back on Sept. 30, this 6-year-old Irish-bred has all important tactical speed and proven ability at the distance, as he's 10-2-2-1 at 1 ¼ miles. With the biggest race on his 21-start resume a second place finish behind California Chrome in the 2016 Dubai World Cup, Mubtaahij was most recently third, beaten 4 ¼ lengths in the Grade II San Pasqual Stakes on Feb. 3.
With budding star Drayden Van Dyke at the controls and Baffert calling signals, Mubtaahij and Hoppertunity provide Baffert with a solid 1-2 Big 'Cap punch.
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