Baffert friend coins Hoppertunity’s name

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Hoppertunity could knock for Bob Baffert in the Kentucky Derby, giving the Hall of Fame trainer a fourth victory in the Run for the Roses.

The colt with the unusual name has also lifted the spirits of a couple trying to conceive their first child.

Hoppertunity earned his way into the Derby with a win in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park and a second-place finish behind California Chrome in the Santa Anita Derby.

He started out with another unusual name, Anyway U Way.

“I was getting ready to run him and I really didn’t like that name,” Baffert said Wednesday.

So he had a horse with no name.

Baffert’s wife, Jill, is a friend of Kathleen Hopper, a designer cookie maker in Pasadena, California. At that time, Kathleen and Chad Hopper were trying to have a baby.

“We were all excited for them,” Baffert said. “But it didn’t take and they were pretty sad. Kathleen said, ‘Well, we missed another Hoppertunity.’”

The Bafferts seized on the name, and colt was off to the races.

“It was an uplift for them,” Baffert said. “They feel like they’re part of the horse. As soon as I named him, he started to come around.”

After running fifth in his debut in January, Hoppertunity won his next race at Santa Anita with Kathleen Hopper there to root him on.

Now comes the biggest test, the 1 ¼-mile Derby. Baffert feels Hoppertunity has a chance if he is in contention at the top of the stretch.

“He’s a good horse, and he can handle a lot of pressure,” Baffert said. “He’s not going to freak out. It’s not going to bother him, being in with a lot of horses. I feel confident if he’s in the top four turning for home, he’ll be really competitive.”

Baffert also sends out Chitu, the Sunland Derby winner, who has been battling a foot fungus that requires special care and shoeing by a blacksmith.

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