03/19/2016 7:49PM

Cupid gives Baffert sixth Rebel Stakes victory

Coady Photography
Martin Garcia guides Cupid, stepping up in class off a maiden victory, to win the Rebel Stakes for 3-year-olds.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Cupid gave his Triple Crown-winning trainer, Bob Baffert, a record sixth win in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn on Saturday, when he turned back a bid from Whitmore to win the  prep for 3-year-olds by 1 1/4 lengths. Whitmore held second by a comfortable 1 3/4 lengths over third-place finisher Creator.

Baffert’s winners in the Rebel have all come since 2010, starting with Lookin at Lucky. His other winners have been The Factor (2011), Secret Circle (2012), Hoppertunity (2014), and American Pharoah (2015), who launched his season in the Rebel and went on to win the Triple Crown.

The Rebel offered its first four finishers Kentucky Derby eligibility points on a sliding scale of 50-20-10-5 and they were locked up by Cupid, Whitmore, Creator and fourth-place finisher Cherry Wine.

Cupid ($7.80) was making his stakes debut off a maiden special weight win at Santa Anita, and after breaking a step slow, forged his way to the lead going into the first turn and proceeded to put up fractions of 22.96 seconds for the opening quarter-mile, 46.82 for the half-mile, and 1:12.11 for six furlongs. He then lost momentum at the top of the stretch when he appeared to swerve toward the rail, but quickly regained his stride.

“Turning for home he made that move,” Baffert said. “I don’t know what it was, just a little green there. Made a left there a little bit, lost his momentum.”

Cupid then fought off Whitmore to cover 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.84, his time quicker than both the Azeri and Razorback, a pair of graded stakes for older horses at the same distance Saturday.

“I saw that horse rolling down the middle of the track, I thought, ‘Well, we’ll see what he’s made of,’ ” said Baffert. “That’s when you start seeing what they’re made of, when they kick back in like that. That’s what you want to see this time of year, show some grit, show some guts, and he really laid it down.”

Martin Garcia rode Cupid.

“It’s hard for horses to break their maiden and then step up to this kind of company with this many people around and win, but he did,” said Garcia. “He showed a lot of ability and we know he can run. He really proved today that he is improving. The distance doesn’t matter. He can go as far as he wants.”

Baffert had scratched Cupid from last weekend’s San Felipe in favor of the Rebel.

“He was really impressive when he broke his maiden and then we had him in the San Felipe,” he said. “We entered him in there just to see how the field was taking shape. I wasn’t sure if I was going to run him there or Sunland.”

Baffert said after a strong work last Friday, the horse was targeted for the Rebel.

Cupid is a son of Tapit who was purchased for $900,000 at the Keeneland September sale in 2014. He earned $540,000 for his win in the Rebel, his second career victory from four starts. Cupid races for the partnership of Michael Tabor, Susan Magnier, and Derrick Smith. He was bred in Kentucky by JKG Thoroughbreds.

Oaklawn handled a meet-high $9.1 million on its 11-race card Saturday. The estimated attendance was 35,000.