05/29/2017 1:16PM

Cupid gives Tapit first Grade 1 win of year

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Cupid wins his first Grade 1 race in Saturday's Gold Cup at Santa Anita.

Cupid’s victory in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita last Saturday was an important one, both for himself and his sire.

Cupid, who races for Coolmore, earned his first Grade 1 victory in the race, an important checkmark toward commercial viability as a stallion prospect. He also posted the first Grade 1 victory of the season for North America’s three-time reigning leading sire, Tapit, who has found himself in an unfamiliar position.

The Gainesway resident, who has set a single-season earnings record in each of the past three years, had solidly assumed command of the general sire list by this point in 2016 and never looked back. However, Tapit currently ranks third among active North American sires, largely due to the results of the world’s two richest races.

Candy Ride, whose Gun Runner finished second in the $10 million Dubai World Cup, is tops among active sires. Ghostzapper sits second; his multiple Grade 1-winning son Shaman Ghost, one of the country’s leading handicap horses, was second in the $12 million Pegasus World Cup.

Cupid was already among his sire’s millionaires entering the Gold Cup thanks to Grade 2 victories in last year’s Rebel Stakes, Indiana Derby, and West Virginia Derby. He finished 10th in his lone Grade 1 try in the Arkansas Derby – later undergoing surgery for an entrapped epiglottis – and Saturday marked his first start since finishing eighth in the Pennsylvania Derby last September.

“Off that long layoff, his class showed up,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “He’s really filled out. He’s always been a beautiful horse.

“We took the back roads with him last year and made over a million dollars. [Coolmore] has been great, and they’ve kept him in training. We freshened him up, and here we are. I got an important Grade 1, which is very important for a horse like him.”

M.V. Magnier, representing Coolmore, purchased Cupid for $900,000 at the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale. The colt, out of the Grade 2-placed Beau Genius mare Pretty ‘n Smart, is a half-brother to Grade 3 winners Heart Ashley and Ashley’s Kitty as well as stakes winner Indianapolis.

Tapit added another graded stakes winner on the weekend as the lightly raced Live Oak homebred Souper Tapit, out of Grade 1 winner Zo Impressive, captured the Grade 3 Marine Stakes at Woodbine. Cupid and Souper Tapit helped pad their sire’s lead among North American sires by individual stakes winners this season, as his 12 easily outpace Candy Ride and Kitten’s Joy, who have eight each.

Tapit’s other standouts this season include a trio of Grade 2 winners in Tapwrit, eyeing the Belmont Stakes; Unique Bella, who was forced to miss the Kentucky Oaks with a minor injury; and Actress, who recently won her maiden in the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes.

◗ On the day Cupid posted the biggest victory of his career, his full sister took a step toward starting her career by getting on the work tab.

Sweet Assassin, a 3-year-old daughter of Tapit, worked three furlongs in 38 seconds flat Saturday at Keeneland for trainer Brendan Walsh. The filly was a $500,000 purchase by bloodstock agents Alex Solis II and Jason Litt at the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale on behalf of the LNJ Foxwoods operation of Larry, Nanci, and Jaime Roth.

Pretty ‘n Smart delivered another Tapit filly, now a yearling, in 2016. She produced a filly from the first crop of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah this year.

Irish Strait builds on productive cross

As Irish War Cry got back to work over the weekend with an eye toward the Belmont Stakes, his close relative Irish Strait became the latest graded stakes winner from a productive family for owner and breeder Isabelle de Tomaso, winning the Grade 3 Red Bank Stakes in his home state of New Jersey.

Irish Strait, by English Channel, is a half-brother to Wood Memorial winner Irish War Cry, by Curlin. Furthermore, the two are bred on the same sire line. Both turf champion English Channel and two-time Horse of the Year Curlin are by the late Smart Strike.

De Tomaso’s involvement with the family that produced her two recent graded stakes winners goes back to 1969, when she purchased the winning mare Tabebuia II in England. The mare produced three stakes winners in Italy, including Irish Trip, the grandam of multiple-graded-stakes producer Irish Sovereign.

De Tomaso has continued to go back to the Smart Strike line with Irish Sovereign, who is boarded at Overbrook Farm in Colts Neck, N.J. The mare has a yearling filly by Lookin At Lucky, another classic-winning champion by the late sire. After delivering a filly by Graydar this year, the mare was booked to Exaggerator, Curlin’s Preakness-winning son, in his first season at stud.