Whenever I need Hoppertunity to run a big race, he fails to fire his best shot. He saves those efforts for the days when I need him to run off the board. So he and I are not in sync. We are 98 degrees apart. The Backstreet Boys, if you will. (Sorry, that was terrible. I try not to force jokes but in the spirit of being a true stream-of-consciousness writer, I have to plug along and refrain from using the delete button). One exception to this is the Alysheba Stakes at Churchill Downs back in May when I bet against him and won. But other than that, we haven’t been humming the same tune.
Anyway, the word that comes to mind when I think of Hoppertunity is “useful”. He’s a useful little horse. Seven years old. Nine wins from 34 starts. Earner of over $4.7 million. He ranks 64th on the list of all-time money earners, just below Perfect Drift and just above Songbird. Think about that. Of all the thoroughbred race horses that have ever lived on Planet Earth, Hoppertunity has earned more money than all but 63 of them. I’m not sure why this surprises me. But it does.
So, here is my plea. With his most recent race coming on the exact same day that his stablemate, Justify, was retired, I ask that his human connections let him continue racing until age 10. Let him rack up one Grade 3 win after another and see how high he can rise on the earnings list. It will be a fun little experiment. Maybe keep him away from Del Mar, where he is 0 for 4 lifetime. Let him bounce back and forth between Belmont and Santa Anita. Give him the occasional three-month break and just see what happens. There are plenty, PLENTY, of mediocre older dirt horses for him to beat up on. And I don’t know why I said they should rack up Grade 3 wins. There’s quite possibly another Grade 1 out there for him. Maybe the Clark.
Look, I have no problem with early retirements. I don’t particularly like it when people are shady about it and try to hide the real motivation. Just say “it makes no sense to race this horse ever again because he is too valuable.” Not to make this about Justify, but I really didn’t like a quote I read from WinStar’s Elliot Walden yesterday when he said something to the effect of “Like American Pharoah, we can’t take the risk of running Justify as a four-year-old.” Leave American Pharoah out of this. You made the decision. It’s a good decision. Move on. But I digress. Hoppertunity is a cool customer and I hope he stays in training as long as he is physically sound. And maybe he and I will get in sync before the racing world says “bye bye bye” to his nifty little career.