Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier and Derrick Smith’s Cupid returned off a seven-month break to capture his four-year-old debut in Saturday’s $500,690 Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes (G1) with jockey Rafael Bejarano aborad.
When the gates opened, American Freedom broke in and bumped with Follow Me Crev to his outside, forcing that runner to take up a rear-running position. Meanwhile, the 8-5 favorite moved up to fight for the lead with Prime Attraction and Midnight Storm through splits of :23.04, :46.52 and 1:10.62.
Cupid followed along behind the trio, biding his time under jockey Rafael Bejarano, and began his move nearing the final turn. American Freedom was already backing up by that point but Midnight Storm still head strong, sticking his head in front past a mile in 1:35.37.
Cupid merely kicked into another gear and easily wrested control of the race away, pulling off to be 3 1/4 lengths clear on the wire while finishing 1 1/4 miles over the fast main track in 2:00.89.
Sent off the 7-1 fourth choice in the seven-horse field, Cupid paid $16 for the win. Follow Me Crev rallied from the rear of the pack to take second, 2 3/4 lengths up on Hard Aces. Midnight Storm followed in fourth while American Freedom, Big John B and Prime Attraction completed the order of finish.
Cupid is now 10-5-1-0 lifetime and has banked $1,336,803 in career earnings. The gray son of Tapit dropped his initial two starts at Los Alamitos and Santa Anita before breaking through at the latter track with a 5 1/4-length victory in February 2016. He captured the Rebel Stakes (G2) next out, but faded to be 10th in the Arkansas Derby (G1) in April of last year.
The Bob Baffert trainee took a couple months off, not reappearing until last June for the Easy Goer Stakes at Belmont Park. Cupid ran fifth that day, but rebounded well to take the Indiana Derby (G2) and West Virginia Derby (G2) in his next pair of efforts. The Kentucky-bred closed out his sophomore campaign on September 24 at Parx Racing with an eighth-place run in the Pennsylvania Derby (G2).
Bred by JKG Thoroughbreds LLC, Cupid is out of the Grade 2-placed Beau Genius mare Pretty ‘n Smart, who also produced Grade 3 winners Ashley’s Kitty and Heart Ashley as well as stakes victor Indianapolis. Pretty ‘n Smart is a half-sister to dual Grade 3 heroine Hostess, and this female family includes Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winner Success Express, Canadian Horse of the Year Charlie Barley, and Grade/Group 1 conquerors Greenwood Lake, Whitmore’s Conn and Air Express.
GOLD CUP AT SANTA ANITA QUOTES
Bob Baffert, trainer Cupid, winner
“It went really well today. Last race he cut himself on the way over. He’s going to get better with age. We should have some fun with him this summer.
“The Gold Cup has always been a very important race. We brought two really good horses today and I thought that fast pace might get to American Freedom. That Prime Attraction caused a lot of trouble.
“Cupid, off that long layoff…his class showed up and he’s been working so well. I switched up the riders around a little. I told Bejarano that he was going to ride Cupid. He liked American Freedom but I wanted to do it differently. He felt so much better when he came back. He told me I was right. I’m happy for Bejarano.
“Cupid has changed a lot. He’s really filled out. He’s always been a beautiful horse. As a matter of fact, I have a two year old that just came in and they could be brothers, they look the same. Hopefully, he’ll be as good.
“We took the back roads with Cupid last year and made over a million dollars. Coolmore has been great and they kept him in training. They asked me if I thought he’d get better and I thought he should. We freshened him up and here we are. I got an important Grade 1 which is very important for a horse like him.
In regards to winning his sixth Gold Cup and the late Charlie Whittingham capturing eight all-time
“I don’t think I could ever compare myself to the great Charlie Whittingham. He was one of the greatest ever. I was stabled next to him his last few years and he never complained, about anything. If he had a good horse, he got every ounce of run out of them. That’s the way I feel. If you have a good horse, you don’t slow ’em down. He made sure they were fit and ready.
“I learned a lot from him about bringing them off a layoff. If they’re good enough, they can take it. You saw a little Charlie Whittingham today. When you hang around with Charlie and are his neighbor, you learn a little bit.”
Rafael Bejarano, jockey Cupid, winner
“My horse broke really well. I put a little pressure on at the half-mile pole. When I got to the stretch and was in the clear I thought I had a lot of horse and the race was over.”
Kent Desormeaux, jockey Follow Me Crev, second
“It was just like the Breeders’ Cup – I was taken out of the race in the first jump. It was a phenomenal effort by (owners Holly and David) Wilsons’ horse because he took a punch and body blow the first jump. Ridiculous. A mile and a quarter. These guys can’t drive. I would have been a couple of lengths behind him, and instead I was 20 back. My horse has more speed than where I was today.”
Flavien Prat, jockey Midnight Storm, fourth
“He ran his race. On the turn he relaxed well, and on the backside, same thing. After that he just didn’t quicken. He ran his race and just got beat by a very good horse today.”