Hopper Returns From Six-Month Layoff, Faces Eight Rivals In San Pasqual by Mike Willman/Santa Anita|01.25.2023|5:11pm Hopper and jockey Abel Cedillo win the Affirmed Stakes at Santa Anita (Benoit photo) Idle since June 11, Bob Baffert's trainee Hopper will be bidding for his second consecutive graded stakes win in Saturday's Grade 2 San Pasqual Stakes at Santa Anita as he heads a field of nine older horses going 1 1/8 miles. A runaway 5 ½ length winner of the G3 Affirmed Stakes last June, Hopper, who broke his maiden going seven furlongs in his second start on May 7 of last year, earned a solid 95 Beyer Speed Figure in the Affirmed and despite his lack of recency, could pose an elusive front-running target in the San Pasqual. Owned by Lanni Bloodstock, SF Racing, LLC and Madaket Stables, LLC, Hopper will be ridden by Edwin Maldonado, who was aboard for a sixth place finish in his six furlong maiden turf debut three starts back on Feb. 25, 2022. By the War Front stallion Declaration of War, Hopper is out of the Caesour mare Irridescence. Most recently third going 1 1/8 miles in the G3 Native Diver Stakes Nov. 27 at Del Mar, Phil D'Amato's Newgrange posted a 97 Beyer two starts back in taking a one-mile classified allowance in gate to wire fashion here on Nov. 6. A 4-year-old colt by Violence out of the Empire Maker mare Bella Chianti, Newgrange will be ridden for the first time by leading man Juan Hernandez. A winner of last year's G3 Sham and G3 Southwest Stakes, he's owned by David Bernsen, LLC, Little Red Feather Racing and Rockingham Ranch. With an overall mark of 7-4-0-2, Newgrange boasts earnings of $325,000. Perhaps the biggest question mark in the San Pasqual is the Peter Miller-trained Perfect Flight, a handy winner of the ungraded Zia Park Derby two starts back on Nov. 22, but a distant ninth here going seven panels in the opening day G1 Malibu Stakes Dec. 26. Twice graded stakes placed routing on turf last year, Perfect Flight has good tactical speed and will be ridden for the first time by Joe Bravo. A 4-year-old colt by Uncle Mo, Perfect Flight, who is three for seven on dirt and is owned by Gary Barber, looms dangerous at a price. A winner of the G1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar in August of 2021, Hronis Racing's 6-year-old Tripoli fits well with these horses and always merits respect in this context. Trained by John Sadler, Tripoli will get the first-time services of Kizushi Kimura, who seeks his third stakes victory of the young meet. A full horse by Kitten's Joy, Tripoli is 21-4-4-3 overall with earnings of $920,460. THE GRADE 2 SAN PASQUAL WITH JOCKEYS & WEIGHTS IN POST POSITION ORDER Race 8 of 9 Approximate post time 4 p.m. PT Hopper—Edwin Maldonado–122 Tripoli—Kazushi Kimura—120 Parnelli—Victor Espinoza—120 Perfect Flight—Joe Bravo—120 American Admiral—Ramon Vazquez—120 Newgrange—Juan Hernandez—122 Go On—Mario Gutierrez—120 Breakfast Ride—Luis Contreras—120 Messier—Kent Desormeaux—122 First post time for a nine-race card on Saturday is at 12:30 p.m. with admission gates opening at 10:30 a.m.