Baffert Sends Out Two Contenders in Santa Anita Handicap

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

March 7th, 2018

Get ready—there’s a great race coming up at the “Great Race Place.”

The historic $600,000 Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) is set to be renewed for the 81st time on Saturday at Santa Anita Park. Commonly referred to as the “Big ‘Cap,” the ten-furlong race has been won through the years by some of the greatest horses in racing history, including Seabiscuit, Round Table, Affirmed, Spectacular Bid, John Henry, and Alysheba.

Eight horses have turned out to contest the 2018 renewal, including two from the barn of Hall of Fame trainer , who has won the Santa Anita Handicap five times. The most accomplished of the Baffert duo is Hoppertunity, winner of the 2016 Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) and a veteran competitor in major races around the world. The seven-year-old son of Any Given Saturday doesn’t win often, but has accumulated more than $4.3 million in career earnings thanks to his consistency and durability.

The other Baffert entrant is Mubtaahij, who has earned more than $4.6 million by virtue of a win in the 2015 UAE Derby (UAE-II) and a runner-up effort in the 2016 Dubai World Cup (UAE-I). Mubtaahij has had a few different trainers during his lengthy career but scored his biggest victory while racing for Baffert, rallying to win the 2017 Awesome Again Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita.

But both Hoppertunity and Mubtaahij will enter the Santa Anita Handicap off of defeats, and in fact the only horse in the field coming off of a victory is Accelerate, who overcame a tough trip to win the February 3rd San Pasqual Stakes (gr. II) with a sharp late rally. Trained by John Sadler, Accelerate has yet to break through at the Grade 1 level and might be at his best going shorter than ten furlongs, though he did finish third in a strong renewal of the Pacific Classic (gr. I) over this distance last summer.

Fear the Cowboy, who has competed at eight different racetracks over the last year, will add Santa Anita to the list following a respectable fourth-place finish in the $16.3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (gr. I) at Gulfstream Park last time out. Rounding out the field are Giant Expectations, ninth in the Pegasus but previously an impressive winner over Accelerate in Santa Anita’s San Antonio Stakes (gr. II); Curlin Road, winner of the Cougar II Handicap (gr. III) last summer but unraced since August; Prime Attraction, runner-up in the San Pasqual; and Top of the Game, fifth in the San Pasqual.

Post time for the Santa Anita Handicap is 7:30 p.m. Eastern.