Bob Hope Stakes 2022 Resulted in a Bob Baffert Exacta

Two highly promising two-year-olds took the plaudits at Del Mar over the weekend, with the filly Justique reinforcing her high reputation with a thrilling last-to-first swoop to take the ungraded Desi Arnaz on Saturday. Twenty-four hours later, Havnameltdown became Bob Baffert’s 12th winner of the G3 Bob Hope Stakes 2022 when toughing it out through the stretch. Elsewhere, the speedy The Chosen Vron landed his third stakes in a row and his seventh overall when cruising in Saturday’s ungraded Cary Grant.

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Bob Hope Stakes

G3, $100,000, 7f dirt, 2yo, Sunday

Meltdown maintains Baffert domination

It was business as usual at Del Mar on Sunday when the feature Bob Hope resulted in a Bob Baffert exacta, Havnameltdown leading home barnmate Newgate to provide his trainer with a record 12th success in the race and his sixth in the last eight years.

Havnameltdown has risen to become one of the more accomplished members of Baffert’s deep two-year-old battalion and the 4-5 favourite was comfortably the best here, allowing his other barnmate Hard To Figure to take him through the first quarter before assuming command.

It looked hard work in the stretch after those brisk fractions, but Havnameltdown had all the answers when Juan Hernandez put the questions to him and he turned back the threat of Newgate to win by a length and a quarter, with Practical Move keeping on for third, two and a half lengths away. The stopwatch showed 1:21 and three-fifths; the field had been reduced to five by the scratches of two longshots.

“It looks like he’s starting to know how to run,” said Hernandez, completing a double on the day. “He broke really nice and easy and the horse on the inside had a lot of speed, so I kind of let him go and I sat behind him. After we ran a half-mile, he started picking it up by himself.”

Havnameltdown is now three-for-four and has never competed away from Del Mar, with this victory added to his win in the G3 Best Pal in August and runner-up spot behind barnmate Cave Rock – subsequently G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up – in the G1 Del Mar Futurity the following month.

In a different year the conversation might turn to the Kentucky Derby, but – like last year’s winner Messier – Havnameltdown is ineligible for the Derby owing to Baffert’s continuing suspension from having runners at Churchill Downs, so the colt will have to move to another trainer before he can begin to collect Road to the Derby points.

Bob Hope Stakes Race Video

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Havnameltdown wins the G3 Bob Hope Stakes #Horseracing #Horseracingtips #Horsesoftiktok #Sports #FYP #Horse #Horses

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Desi Arnaz Stakes

Ungraded, $100,000, 7f dirt, 2yo fillies, Saturday

Justique just too strong

The other big two-year-old contest of the weekend also went the way the tote board said it would, with the promising Justique bouncing back to mend her reputation with a convincing win in Saturday’s Desi Arnaz.

As in her previous two races, the John Shirreffs-trained Justique was very polite at the gate and let all her six rivals get away ahead of her, but Victor Espinoza was unworried and unhurried aboard the 3-2 favourite despite trailing the leader by ten lengths going into the far turn.

That’s where Justique began to make headway, uncoiling her powerful stride, and although she came wide into the stretch she soon rolled past her rivals, putting the race to bed by mid-stretch and driving clear under a hand-ride to beat second-choice Blessed Touch by two and a quarter lengths, stopping the clock in 1:23 and two-fifths. The leading pair drew six and a half lengths clear of Naughty Lottie, under returning rider Kent Desormeaux, in third.

Desi Arnaz Stakes Race Video

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Justique takes the 2022 Desi Arnaz Stakes #Horseracing #Horses #Horseracingtips #Horse #FYP #Sports #Horsesoftiktok

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“I never tried to encourage her out of the gate, I just let her do her thing,” said Espinoza, winning his third Desi Arnaz, a joint-record. “I didn’t want to change anything.”

This come-from-behind performance mirrored Justique’s debut victory here, which prompted the hype machine to grind into gear before then grinding to a halt when she ran a flat third as favourite in the G2 Chandelier at Santa Anita last time.

Her running style resembles that of the mighty 19-for-20 mare Zenyatta, the winner of the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic who was also trained by Shirreffs, and although Justique is nowhere near the level of the almost unbeatable Zenyatta at present, the further the daughter of first-crop sire Justify goes the more those comparisons may be made.

Cary Grant Stakes

Ungraded, $100,000, 7f dirt, 3yo+ state-bred, Saturday

Vron goes on and on

Chalk players had further reason to rejoice after the Cary Grant, in which the consistent and improving The Chosen Vron left his three rivals for dead with a thoroughly dominant display.

It was a short field but it certainly wasn’t short on explosive power in a race of two halves. The second-choice Big City Lights took them out fast but The Chosen Vron was always sitting on his tail under Hector Berrios, and when the even-money favourite eased to the lead on the exit from the turn it became just a question of time and distance.

The answers to that question were 1:20 and three-fifths, not far off the 32-year-old track record, and three and a quarter lengths, as The Chosen Vron cruised through the stretch under a hand-ride to distance himself from Big City Lights, who had a head to spare over rallying longshot Coalinga Road in third.

“He went to the front so easily, he was running so freely today,” said Berrios. “On the turn I had to put some pressure on the leader so I really got him running, and he just kept on going from there.”

The Chosen Vron is remarkable for his consistency, going eight-for-12 lifetime for trainer Eric Kruljac and only off the board once. This was his third stakes success in as many starts, the seventh of his career, and his first ever victory at Del Mar. Last summer he collected a pair of G3s at Santa Anita and is certainly moving back towards that level.

Cary Grant Stakes Race Video

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The Chosen Vron wins the Cary Grant Stakes #Horseracing #Horses #Horseracingtips #Horse #FYP #Sports #Horsesoftiktok

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“I just told Hector to have fun,” said Kruljac. “It sure looks like he’s getting back to his best form. We just had to give him time and now he’s paying us back tenfold.”

Check out the full 2023 Bob Hope Stakes recap here!

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