Cupid, whose last win came in the Rebel Stakes (gr. II) in March, rebounded from two disappointing efforts to gut out a victory in the $500,000 Indiana Derby (gr. II) at Indiana Grand Racing & Casino July 16.
The 3-year-old colt by Tapit , out of the Beau Genius mare Pretty 'n Smart, managed to overcome post 11 in a 12-horse field in a race that didn't go quite as planned. He didn't break well in the 1 1/16-mile race, ended up in a back-and-forth contest for the lead after the first quarter-mile, and appeared green in the lane.
"It was an exciting race," Jimmy Barnes, assistant to trainer Bob Baffert, said tongue-in-cheek. "He was all over the place. (Jockey Rafael Bejarano) had to get him to run early and use him, but once he got into cruising gear, he looked good. Late down the lane, I don't know what it was. He was still on his left lead and leaning in—he was all over the place. But anyway, we got it done."
Owned by the Coolmore connections of Michael Tabor, Susan Magnier, and Derrick Smith, Cupid won for the third time in seven starts. After the Rebel win, he finished 10th in the Arkansas Derby (gr. I) and fifth and last in the one-turn-mile Easy Goer Stakes at Belmont Park. Baffert said the colt clearly prefers going two turns.
His next race hasn't been decided, Barnes and Baffert said. Cupid will return to Southern California.
Pilot House, who fired off two wins after being gelded, grabbed the lead from post 3 and was engaged by Cupid on the first turn, with Cocked and Loaded just behind them and The Player stalking in fourth. The opening quarter-mile went in :23.44, the half-mile in :46.75, and six furlongs in 1:10.86, with little change among the top flight.
Cupid took over entering the stretch as The Player made his bid, and Star Hill, who broke from post 12 and was ninth early, rallied wide into third as the field turned for home. Cupid had a 1 1/2-length lead over The Player at the eighth-pole, but the margin gradually diminished to three-quarters of a length at the wire given his erratic stretch run.
The Player finished second, 2 3/4 lengths ahead of Star Hill, who had 5 3/4 lengths on Whateverybodywants. Cupid, who paid $5.40 to win as the favorite, covered the distance in 1:43.30 on a track rated fast.
Bejarano, in from California for the ride, said he had to be "a little patient" after Cupid didn't break on top, but picked it up before the first quarter-mile was completed. "I tried to get a hold of him as long as I could, and it helped that he got a little breather (in the backstretch)," he said.
Cupid was purchased by M.V. Magnier for $900,000 from the VanMeter Sales consignment at the Keeneland September yearling sale. He has now earned $880,553.
"At about the three-sixteenths pole, I said, 'Hang on for second.' Then at about the sixteenth-pole, I could see he was still trying to get there. He was getting there, just slowly," Bradley said. "We got outrun by a good horse today. I tell you what: Cupid really bounced back and showed he's a pretty nice horse today, the way he ran. He could have come back to us any time, and he never gave an inch.
"But for The Player, I think he ran an awesome race. You always want to get that win, but I saw a lot of positives and know we could move forward."