08/04/2016 2:06PM

Clean break critical for Cupid in West Virginia Derby

Barbara D. Livingston
Cupid is likely to go favored breaking from the rail in the West Virginia Derby.

The bettors love Cupid. He has been favored in his last three races and in five of seven starts and seems certain to be the public’s choice when he swings back into action again Saturday afternoon at Mountaineer in the Grade 2, $750,000 West Virginia Derby.

Cupid and jockey Rafael Bejarano won the $500,000 Indiana Derby last month from the outside looking in, breaking from post 11 and dashing to the front before the first turn. On Saturday, they’re on the inside looking out, starting from post 1 in the 1 1/8-mile dirt race.

“He’s got to break well,” said trainer Bob Baffert, who won this race in 2011 with Prayer for Relief and in 2010 with Concord Point. “If he doesn’t break, he could have a problem.”

The West Virginia Derby drew 12 entrants but will go with fewer than that. Trainer Tom Amoss said Thursday that Ohio Derby winner Mo Tom, who would have been among the favorites Saturday, will be scratched.

Trainer Chad Brown as of Thursday afternoon still was deciding whether to ship Easy Goer Stakes winner Economic Model. Economic Model has miler’s speed, is listed as racing with blinkers on, and is coming out of one-turn races, and his defection would help the front-running Cupid.

In Economic Model’s absence, No Distortion, drawn in post 2, might be the horse capable of sticking with Cupid.

:: WEST VIRGINIA DERBY: Get PPs, watch Saturday's card live on DRF.com

“Hopefully, someone will occupy Cupid up on the lead,” said Donnie Von Hemel, who trains the late-running Suddenbreakingnews.

The West Virginia Derby, scheduled for 5:21 p.m. Eastern, is the eighth of nine races, all stakes, on a card that begins at 2 p.m., and it is the third leg in an appealing pick four with a 50-cent base bet. There’s a chance of rain in the area through Saturday morning, but clear conditions are forecast for Saturday afternoon.

West Virginia Derby, Race 8


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Cupid, by Tapit

Last 3 Beyers: 94-85-78

◗ The throat surgery he had to correct a breathing problem that compromised him in the Arkansas Derby apparently was successful because after setting a strong pace in the Indiana Derby, Cupid stayed on well to see off the promising, lightly raced The Player.

◗ Didn’t change leads in the Indiana Derby, nor did he improve on the Beyer Speed Figure he earned March 19 in winning the Rebel Stakes, and now he’ll be asked to win at 1 1/8 miles for the first time while shipping across the country for the second time in three weeks.

“He worked really well the other day,” said Baffert. “We’re going in there ready, and that’s all you can ask.”

Forevamo, by Uncle Mo

Last 3 Beyers: 85-90-82

◗ Trainer Al Stall won this race in 2013 with Departing and has pointed Forevamo to this spot since he finished a good, closing second in the Pat Day Mile on May 7 at Churchill Downs.

◗ Got trapped inside while racing on a muddy Delta Downs strip in the Delta Jackpot and struggled but otherwise has been making steady progress for basically his entire career, including his fifth in the Louisiana Derby.

“He absolutely blew the turn in that race,” said Stall.

◗ Based at Saratoga, Stall was dodging wet weather there to put the final touches on Forevamo’s West Virginia Derby preparation.

“I let him open gallop on Sunday with the track being so wet on Monday and Tuesday,” Stall said. “That was his piece of work.”

Suddenbreakingnews, by Mineshaft

Last 3 Beyers: 88-96-94

◗ Off a good, closing fifth in the Kentucky Derby, he was a well-backed 5-1 in the Belmont Stakes but never really got into the race, finishing ninth.

“I don’t think he handled that track,” said Von Hemel. “He had been running very competitive with [Belmont winner] Creator all spring but didn’t make a run anywhere in the race.”

◗ Back at Churchill Downs, Suddenbreakingnews has worked four times since the Belmont, his last two breezes sharp five-furlong drills.

“I’ve been very pleased with his work,” Von Hemel said. “His last one, he was really moving out down the lane.”

◗ Breaks from the outside post and will drop to the inside and the back of the field and hope for a decent pace to develop.

Adventist, by Any Given Saturday

Last 3 Beyers: 90-82-89

◗ Appears to still have room to improve and was second to Mo Tom while racing with blinkers removed in the Ohio Derby. Also finished fourth in the Peter Pan, from which second-place finisher Governor Malibu emerged to run fourth in the Belmont Stakes and second in the Jim Dandy Stakes.