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Hoppertunity wins Clark Handicap at Churchill

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Hoppertunity won the $551,000 Clark Handicap on Friday at Churchill Downs, beating Protonico by a half-length for his first victory since the Rebel Stakes in March while leading a 1-2-3 finish by 3-year-olds.

Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert and ridden by Martin Garcia, Hoppertunity ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.88. He was scratched from the Kentucky Derby because of a bruised foot two days before the race and veterinarians later found bone chips in Hoppertunity's ankle.

''You just don't look back in this business,'' co-owner Mike Pegram said.

Baffert, watching the race while attending the Stanford-UCLA football game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, felt much like Pegram regarding the missed Derby opportunity. He also thinks his horse has a bright future.

''He'll get better with age,'' Baffert said.

It marked the third career win for Baffert in the Clark Handicap, and Hoppertunity became the 54th 3-year-old winner in the race's 140-year history. He paid $6.40, $4.60 and $3.40 as the 5-2 favorite in the field of nine.

Protonico rallied from sixth place and returned $6 and $4.40, and Constitution paid $3.80 to show. Both are trained by Todd Pletcher. Constitution also was eliminated from Derby consideration because of injury.

''Constitution was maybe just a tad headstrong,'' Pletcher said from New York. ''And Churchill is not always the most speed conducive track, so I would have liked to see him settle just a touch more.''

The victory, worth $327,955, increased Hoppertunity's career earnings to $950,675.

''It was just a good feeling,'' said Pegram, a southern Indiana native. ''I love Kentucky!''