Cupid Pointed To Preakness

Cupid to Miss Kentucky Derby but Shooting for Preakness Stakes

Cupid, the gray Tapit colt who finished a disappointing 10th as the betting favorite in the Arkansas Derby, has been ruled out of the Kentucky Derby following surgery for an entrapped epiglottis. Trainer Bob Baffert withdrew Cupid from Derby consideration clearing the way for Mo Tom into the Derby field at No. 20 on the qualifying points leaderboard. The Kentucky Derby field is limited to 20 starters.

Cupid underwent surgery April 18 to clear the passageway in his throat at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital Lexington, Ky. The issue is not considered serious. Baffert said Cupid “should be OK in a week” and would head to Churchill Downs later this week and be based there for the time being. Baffert said if Cupid recovers quickly from the surgery, he would be pointed to the Preakness Stakes May 21.

Cupid emerged as a top Kentucky Derby contender after a wire-to-wire victory in the March 19 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs.

Cupid is one of the best-bred 3-year-olds of this class, as evidenced by his $900,000 purchase price at the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale. Both of the colt’s victories have come at 1 1/16 miles even though he hails from a female family slanted heavily toward speed. But Cupid is by Tapit, who is, of course, North America’s two-time reigning leading sire. The stallion, who has never sired a Derby winner, is also likely to have multiple Grade 2 winner Mohaymen and Group 2 U.A.E. Derby winner Lani in the Kentucky Derby starting gate.

Unfortunately, we won’t see Cupid running at Churchill Downs May 7, but a quick recovery and racing fans may get another peak of Cupid at Pimlico for the Preakness Stakes.

Gun Runner Partnership Fruitful for All

Three Chimneys Farm sold Louisiana Derby (gr. II) winner Gun Runner to Winchell Thoroughbreds last year, but they were insistent in keeping part-interest as part of the sale. You could see why that was a smart move during a Kentucky Derby (gr. I) workout on April 18.

Gun Runner, who was kept company by Gold Hawk, breezed five-eighths of a mile yesterday in less than 1:00. Florent Geroux was the jockey and the run took place at Churchill Downs.

Clockers keeping track recorded the following eighth-mile times :12 4/5, :12 2/5, :12, :11 3/5, :12. His three-quarter of a mile gallop timed in at 1:13 1/5.

“He’s a very good work horse in the morning,” said Geroux following the workout. “Today was just what Mr. Asmussen asked us to do—a set up for next week. He did it very easily, like a two-minute lick. He galloped out in 1:13 just pointing his ears. Very nice, just what Steve wanted: Relax early on and pick it up and at the end save lots of energy.

“The horse has been training very well, so we’re excited. It’s a dream just to be able to compete in the race. To participate with a real chance is a bigger dream.”

In five starts, Gun Runner has only one loss to his name: a fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II) last fall. Yesterday’s workout is a preview of what’s to come.

“He worked very well this morning and settled into Churchill very nicely,” said trainer Steve Asmussen. “I was very pleased with the work; he goes over the racetrack really well. I’m obviously excited about our opportunity.

“He’s a tremendous individual as far as conformation, pedigree-wise. He has got a great attitude—just the whole package. He accepts what he’s doing and is very energetic as far as training. He has always been very effortless over the racetrack, like his work this morning. He goes around there in a minute and does it very kindly.

“In the Derby, (with) 20 runners, I don’t think they’re going to all love the surface. We don’t have to worry about that.”

Creator wins 2016 Arkansas Derby

Creator Claims 2016 Arkansas Derby

Those of you who bet the 2016 Arkansas Derby on a hunch reaped some major benefits. All of the talk heading in to the race was about Cupid, a Bob Baffert trainee and a son of Tapit. But there was another son of Tapit in the race that some had forgotten about since his third place finish at the Rebel Stakes.

Which is why you always need to watch the tape.

People backing Creator probably saw a horse trailing at the back of the pack during last month’s Rebel, who came on late to squeeze on to the podium. But this is where the wagering eye works differently. Had Creator broken sooner at the Rebel Stakes, and taken a better line, he would have caught Whitmore and Cupid who finished in the top two spots.

That’s exactly what happened at the 2016 Arkansas Derby. Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. unleashed his ride much sooner and was gifted a gorgeous beeline thanks to a generous gap that opened up right at the final turn. Creator seized it and would not be caught as he buried the competition down the stretch in a gutsy performance.

Creator was a bit of an afterthought at the betting window, posting 11/1 odds which handsomely rewarded his backers. With his 2016 Arkansas Derby win, Creator paid out $25.20, $8.60 and $5.50 across the board. Suddenbreakingnews returned $6.00 and $4.00 in second place, with Whitmore bringing back $3.80 for the show. Both had 5/1 odds.

The preferred Cupid, who opened as a 4/5 favorite, tried to hold with Gettysburg out of the gates and that strategy doomed him early. The latter took off like a bullet down the back stretch, and the early fractions simply wore out Cupid. The Bob Baffert trainee is no longer being considered for the Kentucky Derby after a dismal run at the Arkansas Derby.

For Creator, however, it’s full steam ahead. Let’s just hope he hits the gas sooner rather than later at Churchill Downs in a few weeks.

Songbird will miss the Kentucky Oaks due to fever

Songbird Drops Out Of Kentucky Oaks

The unbeatable Songbird has befallen a low grade fever which will summarily remove her from the Kentucky Oaks. It’s a sad moment for the sport of thoroughbred racing, which was hoping to elevate the status of the often-forgotten Triple Tiara around the talented three-year old filly. Her entire team of handlers was in agreement that the best coarse of action revolves around taking all the necessary precautions.

“She showed up with a temperature one morning and we got on it right away,” trainer Jerry Hollendorfer remarked. “It never got to be a high temperature and we think she’s going to be fine, but we don’t want her to train right now, so that’s why we’ll miss the Oaks.”

While this remains a big loss for the sport, Hollendorfer’s priorities were clear. “You know what matters the most? Taking care of Songbird,” continued Hollendorfer. “Forget about trying to win another Oaks. Those races are very difficult to win and everything has to go perfect for you to get there. Things didn’t go perfect and we’re not going to get there, but we think we have a great future with Songbird.”

Rick Porter, who own Fox Hill Farms, supported his trainer thoroughly even in the wake of missing out on the Kentucky Oaks. “I err on the side of conservatism. She’s a great horse and I would have loved to run in the Kentucky Oaks, but her long-term health is more important than anything,” Porter said. “The outlook is excellent, but we’ve got to give her some time. Certainly it was a little deflating, but the more I talked about it, I got over it, because we’ve got to do what’s right.”

The next best horse to bet on at the Kentucky Oaks will likely be Rachel’s Valentina, who has finished second to Songbird at the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and recently placed at the Ashland Stakes in an upset by Weep No More. The three-year old filly is a highly regarded contender due to her pedigree. She is the daughter of Bernadini and Rachel Alexander, who both won the Preakness Stakes.

Collected Cashes in at Lexington Stakes

Trainer Bob Baffert Pointing Collected Towards Preakness

Collected was far the best Saturday at Keeneland, pulling away by four lengths to win the $150,000 Lexington Stakes. The Bob Baffert-trained 3-year old tracked the pace early and shifted into the four path entering the lane. He reeled in the leader One More Round entering the stretch before taking command swiftly and drawing off in the final stages to win by four lengths.

“What an impressive horse. He broke well out of the gate, and he wanted to dictate the pace today,” jockey Javier Castellano said.“ “Coming for home, I really liked his acceleration…The way he galloped out past the wire, I’m really impressed.”

Collected was the 2-1 second choice behind Swipe, and he finished the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.33. Collected paid $6.40, $4 and $3 for his fourth victory in six starts. The 40-1 long shot One More Round held on for second and returned $28.40 and $13.80, and Synchrony paid $5. The $2 exacta paid $164.80 and a $2 trifecta 10-1-5 returned $1,193.40.

After the race Collected’s connections said they were leaning toward the Preakness Stakes in five weeks for the City Zip colt.

“I think that would be the most-logical step given the distance,” owner Peter Fluor said of the Preakness. “We’ll see how he comes out, but that would be a thrill for us.” Collected received 10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points for the victory, but he sits just outside the top-20 in the Derby points standings.

The all-time largest Lexington Stakes crowd of 38,863 was the third largest in history outside of Breeders’ Cup on a sun-drenched day at Keeneland.

Fifth Straight Win for Catch a Glimpse

She had to fend off a late charge by Ava’s Kitten, but Catch a Glimpse was able to do just that on her way to winning the $125,000 Appalachian Stakes presented by Japan Racing Association (gr. IIIT). The one-mile Appalachian Stakes was the fifth straight victory for the Canadian Horse of the Year, and her fourth consecutive graded score.

“That’s just kind of what she does. She’s always been a real flighty filly,” said assistant trainer Norm Casse. “She’s temperamental. That’s just how it goes. It’s not something we get alarmed with because she’s like that all the time. So when you see her do those things, if it was a horse that doesn’t normally do it, you’d be a little bit concerned, but I wasn’t concerned today.”

While Casse might have not have admitted to being concerned there must have been at least some worry in Catch a Glimpe’s connections, as they watched Ava’s Kitten looming up the rear.

“(Jockey Florent Geroux) said as soon as she made the lead she started looking around—started pulling herself up,” said Casse. “But as that horse got closer to her, she kept kicking away, and that’s kind of what she did in the Breeders’ Cup. She does what she has to do to win, and those are the best type of horses.”

“Sometimes at the end (of a race), she gets a little bit bored,” said Geroux. “She does it so easily that sometimes she switches back and forth—left lead, right lead—but I think it’s just because she’s not really paying attention because no one is really challenging her… When I asked her to go, she gave me a very nice turn of foot.”

Catch a Glimpse paid $3.20, $2.40, and $2.20. Ava’s Kitten returned $4.80 and $3.40. Third-place Outsider’s showing was worth $9.20. There is no official word on Catch a Glimpse’s next race, but it could be the May 6 Edgewood Stakes (gr. IIIT).

Preakness Next for Awesome Speed

Awesome Speed Takes Tesio ‘Win and You’re In’ for Preakness Entry

Awesome speed did not cross the finish line first last Saturday, but a steward’s inquiry and race review resulted in a reversal order of finish, giving Awesome Speed the victory and the automatic bid into the 141st running of the Preakness Stakes on May 21.

Awesome Speed was the 3-5 favorite in the 1 1/8 mile Tesio Stakes at Laurel Park, Maryland’s local prep for the Preakness. With first time rider Jevian Toledo aboard, Awesome Speed finished a nose behind Governor Malibu after leading from the gate into deep stretch, but was awarded the victory following Governor Malibu’s disqualification to second for interference in the final sixteenth of a mile.

“It would have been a tough beat,” said trainer Alan Goldberg, who won the 2000 Tesio with Runspastum. “To be honest I was watching the TV and I didn’t see [Governor Malibu] get in but you could see it on the head-on [replay] pretty clearly. I think we probably would have won but when the horse hit him it made him change leads and he kind of lost his momentum.”

Bred by Allen Poindexter and Adena Springs, Awesome Speed is now three-for-three lifetime at Laurel, having broken his maiden last October prior to winning the James F. Lewis III Stakes in November.

Awesome Speed also won the Mucho Macho Man Stakes Jan. 2 at Gulfstream and finished fourth in the Fountain of Youth (G2) after being bumped hard and floated wide shortly after the start. The Tesio was his second start around two turns.

The Tesio was a ‘Win and You’re In’ for the Preakness, and Awesome Speed is now guaranteed a spot in the field and will save $30,000 in entry and starter fees.

trainer doug o'neill with I'll Have Another

Trainer Doug O’Neill Gently Jogs Nyquist

Trainer Doug O’Neill knows that he has a strong chance of winning a Triple Crown with Nyquist, the favorite to win the Kentucky Derby and a surefire entry in to the later stages of the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes if he has a good showing. So far, the “less is more” approach that O’Neill and his staff have used to prep the horse for the spring gauntlet has paid off handsomely. Nyquist won the San Vicente Stakes handedly before running wild in a highly competitive showdown with his chief rival, Moyhamen, at the Florida Derby.

Nyquist, who won the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile as well, went out for a light jog this week. “It’s kind of what we’ve been doing back home, he’ll have one jog two miles and then galloping a mile and a quarter the next day, we kind of alternate, and it worked back home so we figured hopefully it will work here,” said trainer Doug O’Neill. “He looked good, looked loose, and we’re excited to breeze him tomorrow. That’s the plan.

“It’s kind of his standard thing; he’ll go a mile but (the clockers) will probably only pick up the last half,” O’Neill said. “He kind of two-minute licks for a half-mile and then he’ll work a half. It’s a pretty good piece of exercise. It’s been good for his mind and body so we want to keep that going.

He came out of it in great shape and we loved the idea of coming right to Kentucky instead of bringing him back to California,” trainer Doug O’Neill continued. “[The gap between the Florida and Kentucky Derby’s] turned out to be a blessing because we had a couple extra walk days because of the white [blood cell] count, so I think it’s been great.”

O’Neill is a former winner of the Preakness Stakes, having guided I’ll Have Another to a win at Pimlico shortly after winning the 2012 Kentucky Derby. I’ll Have Another was unfortunately scratched from the Belmont Stakes due to a tendon injury that forced him in to an early retirement. So preserving the health of derby favorite Nyquist remains a priority and concern for trainer Doug O’Neill and his camp.

Uncle Lino Pointed Towards Preakness

Trainer Gary Sherlock Still High on Uncle Lino

Trainer Gary Sherlock has announced he will bypass the Derby and point Uncle Lino towards the Preakness Stakes May 21.

Uncle Lino, a son of Uncle Mo, was a bargain purchase by his trainer Gary Sherlock, who owns Uncle Lino with partners Tom Mansor and Jim Glavin’s Purple Shamrock Racing. They bought him for $52,000. Sherlock, at age 70, is the youngest of the trio referred to as ‘the Sunshine Boys’.

Uncle Lino has a win, two seconds and two third place finishes in six career starts.

He made his first start last July at Del Mar, finishing second on a sloppy, sealed track, and didn’t race again for four months.

“He came out of that race a little messed up behind,” Sherlock said.

Uncle Lino was set to race during the fall meeting at Santa Anita but popped a splint. When he finally made it back to the races Nov. 29 at Del Mar, “he wasn’t ready to run 6 1/2 furlongs, but he parked anyway,” Sherlock said.

“I knew then he was really good,” he said.

Uncle Lino then ran in a first-level allowance sprint at Santa Anita on Jan. 3, finishing a close third in a three-way photo. He followed that up February 8 with a stalking runner up finish to highly regarded Mor Spirt in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes. ‘

At 24-1 odds, Uncle Lino was fourth in the March 12 San Felipe (G2) behind Danzing Candy, Mor Spirt and Exaggerator, who will all head to the Kentucky Derby. He stalked inside, but was bumped and forced out leaving the second turn and into the stretch and weakened.

In the April 9 Santa Anita Derby run at 1 1/8 miles, Uncle Lino was again sent off at long odds of 26-1 but outperformed expectations finishing third behind a super-surge closing of Exaggerator and runner-up favorite Mor Spirt. Uncle Lino angled and stalked the pace just off the rail, bid outside the pacesetter on the second turn, took the lead into the stretch, and was not a match for the top pair in the final furlong but clearly bested the other five finishers on a sloppy (sealed) track.

Check out Uncle Lino in the Santa Anita Derby and get ready for his run as a long shot at the Preakness Stakes.


Bob Baffert will prep Cupid for Arkansas

Bob Baffert Reflects on ‘Pharoah As Cupid Preps For Arkansas

Bob Baffert is a six-time winner at the Preakness Stakes and will go for his seventh this year with a bevy of horses in the Triple Crown mix. One of his top choices remains the unheralded Cupid, whom we haven’t seen that much in competition. Baffert is pointing Cupid down the same derby trail that American Pharoah did during last season.

American Pharoah won both the Rebel Stakes and the Arkansas Derby prior to becoming one of the greatest thoroughbreds in the history of the sport, and undoubtedly the best in the modern era. Cupid has already taken the Rebel Stakes, beating Whitmore and Creator, and will be the top consideration at one of the last major races prior to the Kentucky Derby. A field of 12-13 horses is probable for this weekend’s event.

Bob Baffert will also run Contender in the grade-three Lexington Stakes this weekend as well, and had him training out along with Cupid at Santa Anita. It was a strange moment for the trainer, who took a moment to reflect upon his post-Pharoah time.

“To see him [retire] was sad because it’s like watching your child leave. You think, ‘Is he going to be OK? Is he sleeping at night?'” The legendary Bob Baffert continued to recall the post partum effect after retiring American Pharoah. “We went through about 60 days where we were depressed about it, not being able to see him at the barn, but at the same time we have great memories. We got to be a part of it and my kids will be able to tell their kids about it when I’m gone. That [year] is part of their lives. It will always be remembered. It was tough when he left, but we’re always looking at those young 2-year-olds coming up. We always have our minds thinking about the future.”

Collected’s immediate future depends on how he runs at Lexington and while he won’t be in the running for the Kentucky Derby, Bob Baffert wouldn’t rule out a run in the second leg of the Triple Crown. “If he were to run well, maybe we’d consider the Preakness for him, but we’re being realistic where distance is concerned for him,” he said.

Cupid remains one of Bob Baffert’s most intriguing entries in to the Triple Crown season. “He’s shown he’s different than a sprinter. He’s come around quickly since January. He’s really matured a lot. We knew he was a nice horse but [in the Rebel] he showed us something different. He can be a little bit of a handful like most Tapits, they can get a little bit excited, so we put a lot of work into him just to keep him relaxed and focused.”

Mor Spirit is still in contention, but is coming off a pair of frustrating runs at Santa Anita where he was bested by Exaggerator and Danzing Candy in subsequent derby prep races. Of the three, Cupid’s mystique continues to grow the most and bettors will be excited to see what he’s capable of at this weekend’s Arkansas Derby.

Even with some curious pathways leading up to the Triple Crown, one can never doubt the decisions of an accomplished trainer like Bob Baffert. That’s why Cupid and Mor Spirit will continue to generate heavy interest in a thick Kentucky Derby field.