03/20/2016 10:57AM

Watchmaker: Despite flaws, Cupid displays great talent

Coady Photography
Cupid ran faster winning the Rebel than older horses did in the Razorback and Azeri on the same card.

When Cupid figures what this racing thing is all about, he’s going to be pretty darn good.

Truth is, Cupid is already darn good. He proved that by decisively beating 13 opponents in Saturday’s Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park. But Cupid also did enough things wrong in the Rebel to create the tantalizing prospect of how good he might actually be when he finally does put it all together. As it is, however, that Cupid overcame difficulty in the Rebel of his own making in just his fourth career start, in his stakes debut, and off only a maiden victory, was impressive.

It was a little surprising that the apparent strategy for Cupid in the Rebel was to go early given how kindly he settled early in his maiden score last month at Santa Anita in his first attempt at two turns. But after breaking slowly, Cupid was sent and sent hard while he still had a hole between opponents, and before the field would have inevitably collapsed toward the inside, blocking his path.

As a result, Cupid wound up getting his first quarter-mile in 22.96 seconds, which was the fastest opening split of the eight route races on Saturday’s card, faster even than solid older stakes horses went in the Razorback and Azeri stakes.

If Cupid had given way in the late stages of the Rebel after being sent into a first quarter like that and after getting left at the start, he would have had a thoroughly legitimate excuse. But when you also factor in how Cupid ducked in during his run through the  upper stretch out of greenness, and how he was seriously challenged in deep stretch by the stakes-seasoned and capable Whitmore, Cupid had plenty of reason to capitulate late.

Instead, Cupid was almost emboldened by it all. Even if you think Whitmore might have distance limitations – I actually think he might wind up being highly successful as a closer in extended one-turn races – you had to be taken with the way Cupid turned him back late after being so lazy out of the gate and goofy at the top of the stretch. I mean, Cupid was going away at the finish of the Rebel (he also galloped out with gusto once again), and his final time was faster than those solid older horses ran in the Razorback and Azeri just two and three races earlier.

Cupid continued an otherworldly run in graded stakes at Oaklawn for his trainer, Bob Baffert. Before Saturday, Baffert had 17 starters over the last five years ship in for a graded stakes start at Oaklawn. Nine of them won (53 percent), and they weren’t all tiny prices, as evidenced by the $2 return on investment on these shippers of $3.47. Baffert’s numbers in such situations with 3-year-olds is even more striking. Before Cupid, he was 8 for 13 (62 percent) for a $4.30 ROI, an ROI that was knocked down by American Pharoah when he shipped in and won the Rebel last year at 2-5.

Obviously, Baffert has sent very live horses to stakes at Oaklawn. But another factor at work here, one that admittedly might not sound politically correct, is Baffert is exposing and exploiting the talent disparity between the horse population at his base of Santa Anita and stakes performers based in the Midwest/South.

Quick Saturday notes:

•I leaned against him in the Razorback, but it was still nice to see Upstart win for trainer Rick Violette in his first start since his unsuccessful outing in the Pennsylvania Derby. Upstart is a classy horse, and it is always good to have that kind around.

That said, I just wonder where Upstart’s form goes from here. Upstart is a horse who has always run big fresh off works. He won his racing debut. His win in last year’s Holy Bull off a layoff was one of his very best races. Even Upstart’s third to American Pharoah in the Haskell last summer was a good effort, and given his debacle of an outing in the Kentucky Derby, the Haskell was his first representative race in four months.

•It is tremendously sporting that Untapable is still racing two years removed from her Eclipse Award-winning 3-year-old filly campaign. So there is no joy taken in noting she is significantly removed from her championship form. Untapable had a perfect trip in the Azeri, and was still nailed by Call Pat.

•Tara’s Tango’s value increased exponentially with her win in the Grade 1 Santa Margarita, and I suspect the addition of blinkers assisted in her determined effort. Still, it’s hard to escape the feeling that the older dirt female division is just marking time until Beholder returns.

•Stonetastic finally got her victory going seven furlongs in the Inside Information, but it is not a win without an asterisk. The main track Saturday was profoundly speed favoring, and the speedy Stonetastic reaped the full benefits of the bias.



Harvey Hochberg More than 1 year ago
I guess he didn't have a jockey. Eight paragraphs and we know the the trainer....but not the rider.Reason?? Considering he was a difficult handle,it may have been important to the colt's performance.
Tom Gaeta More than 1 year ago
It was hard to see what happened to SBNews in this one. Jockey rode/dumped him like an Aquaduct fix. He had the rail open, but instead he checked up when boxed in when he should have been making a run. Or was the Jockey just that horrible? Give him another shot for points and a start in Louisville. Perfect horse for BoRail to ride.
Richard More than 1 year ago
Mike, you were "spot on" in your analysis to downgrade SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS's performance in the Southwest. Good job giving us CUPIDRacetrack Rik
Jerry Mann More than 1 year ago
WOW!!!! BOB got a good one....
Joel Firsching More than 1 year ago
Agree on all of the youngsters mistakes. Did he lose his right front shoe at start ? Why send him so ard after a bad start ? Was the discolored rail surface, the place to be ? Fast pace, no other horses close to the pace survived. Top of the lane, ducked in going downhill. Baffert dominates at the haskell, also. 8 wins, 1 second in last nine attempts. Baffert isnt very good at saratoga. Look at all of the 8.5 furlong race final times. Optional claimer 1:44.22 Azeri stakes. 1:44.44 Razorback. 1:44.12 Rebel. 1:43.84 Maiden. 1;44.46. American pioneer (correct spelling) Once again the optional claimers are as good as the weak older division (S.A. Handicap) The maiden winner, american pioneer, won in hand and had no mistakes. Why is it so hard to seperate maiden winners to the grade 2 winners ? The rebel was the fastest pace 46.82 and the slowest was the optional claimers 48.32.
Larry Kaufman More than 1 year ago
i think it's time to retire untapable, she never ran back to her 3 year old form last year and looks no better this year. the untapable from 2014 would have beaten this weak field by 10.time to breed her the foal would be worth millions
Chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
A Rider change may work wonders for her. She started losing when Rosie got off and Velasquez got on.
David Benning More than 1 year ago
SBN got exposed in the Rebel, I'm afraid. He got the pace set-up he needed, yet offered nothing even after getting clear off a somewhat troubled trip (and pretty bad ride, too). If he had kicked it in late, I might be more forgiving. But he didn't. He just plodded down the outside for 5th. Does he deserve one more chance? First of all, I thought he was way overbet at 5-2 given that he was stuck 14 wide to start but this happens a lot when a horse makes an eye-catching run right in the front of the grandstand for everyone to see. I would change riders on this colt, first of all. He can make a lot of money in the 2nd tier 3yo stakes races, assuming his Rebel can't be excused, and right now I don't see an excuse except for what I would call a very clumsy ride. He had no excuse getting stopped around the turn when the inside was wide open. He was never going to win or be in the top 3, so it's kind of moot, but I would also like to see him ridden with more alacrity early in the race, otherwise he'll always be at the mercy of pace. If you want a colt coming off the pace for the KD, you might want to turn your sights to My Man Sam, who's last 2 races have been promising, to say the least. Plus you get Chad Brown, who is going to win a KD sooner or later. Cupid channeled Bodemeister, plain and simple. However, there's no way the timing of the AD makes sense for this colt after this HUGE effort. Don't be shocked if Baffert trains him up to the KD from here. Did you see his gallop-out? Wow! He was flying. The timing is really messed up for this colt. Training him up to the Derby from here is almost the only thing they can do and still have a legit shot. What you say you all?
Kendall Daniels More than 1 year ago
A late runner pointing to the Kentucky Derby can't really get exposed in an 8.5 furlong race. The face that he was able to get up and win in his last race off a poor post and no pace going wide was more of a plus than him running 5th yesterday was a minus. Remember when The Factor set fast fractions loose on the lead and came home fast in the 2011 Rebel, leaving ArchArchArch well behind in third? In the AR Derby, the pace dynamic changed and the added distance gave ArchArchArch what he needed. My point is that as the races stretch out you'll see what Suddenbreakingnews can do.
David Benning More than 1 year ago
I'm rooting for him to rebound; points-wise, he's on the outside looking in for the KD as of now. He'll have to earn his way there in next. I hope he does.
Larry Kaufman More than 1 year ago
horrible trip i think there will be a jockey change
Jeff More than 1 year ago
Can't win derby off that kind of layoff. Needs another Race. Ark derby is 4 weeks away. Thats plenty of time between races. Cupid is a toss out if he tries to go 7 weeks between races and going 1 1/4 miles. Needs 9 furlong race before derby
David Benning More than 1 year ago
The filly to watch in the 4yo and up route division is the filly who ran 2nd to Stonetastic in her 4yo debut. Tiger Ride has been reformed since joining Graham Motion late last season. She can run on turf, dirt or off tracks with equal alacrity. One thing she isn't is a sprint horse. Yet, she still proved 2nd best at 7F behind Stonetastic who was the recipient of a speed bias in her favor. Look for Tiger Ride to stretch out and become a major player in the F&M division this summer, at what should be - initially, anyway - square prices.