Michael Tabor, Susan Magnier, and Derrick Smith's Cupid , no worse for wear after his second trip from California in a month, dominated nine other 3-year-olds in the $750,000 West Virginia Derby (gr. II) Aug. 6 at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort.
The Tapit colt shipped from Southern California for the $500,000 Indiana Derby (gr. II), which he won July 16. He traveled back home for a look-over by trainer Bob Baffert, and got the go-ahead for the trip to West Virginia.
"It was a quick turnaround," said Baffert assist Jimmy Barnes, who was on hand at Mountaineer. "But he was going well, so we decided to take advantage (of racing in) another Derby. He's a good-feeling colt. He showed all the signs of being able to ship again."
Cupid, bred in Kentucky by JKG Thoroughbreds out of the Beau Genius mare Pretty 'n Smart, drew the rail in the 1 1/8-mile West Virginia on a day when the inside clearly wasn't ideal. Jockey Rafael Bejarano, who also rode him in the Indiana Derby, sent the colt to the front and guided him into the three-path, where he remained for much of the race.
Without the expected pressure from Long Branch Stakes winner No Distortion, who left the gate alongside him, Cupid set honest but comfortable fractions of :23.51 for the opening quarter-mile, :47.97 for a half-mile, and 1:11.69 for six furlongs. After he disposed a brief challenge from Pinson, Cupid opened a four-length lead on the far turn, drifted to the center of the track turning for home, and remained there to the finish.
Cupid, now a three-time grade II winner, covered the distance in 1:50.54 on a track rated fast. The Farm on 4's Whateverybodywants, who finished fourth in the Indiana Derby, slipped away at odds of 74-1 but finished second, four lengths behind the winner and two lengths ahead of Name Changer.
Another longshot, Florida shipper Anaximandros, was fourth, while second choice Suddenbreakingnews, who broke from post 10, trailed for most of the way and rallied for fifth. Two horses expected to contend in the Derby—Mo Tom and Economic Model—were program scratches.
Cupid, a $900,000 purchase at the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale, paid $5 to win as the favorite.
"He was ready to go, and it's big for the owners to have a grade II (win)," said Bejarano, who had ridden two previous West Virginia Derby winners. "They've been working with him to get him prepared for this race. The last two times I had to ask him (from the gate), and he got the lead. It gave him some confidence, and I tried to stay off the inside, because it was really dead today."
Barnes said he and Bejarano, after watching earlier dirt races, realized Cupid needed to break on top and find the best part of the track.
"The obvious thing to tell Rafael was to work his way out to the three-path, which he did," Barnes said. "He eventually went to the four- or five-path, but (Cupid) looked like the top horse in the race. If they beat us, they'd have to come and get us."
Cupid is set to return to Del Mar Aug. 9. Barnes said no decisions have been made on the colt's next start.
"That's up to Bob," he said. "I don't know what the plans are, but there are still some big 3-year-old races out there."
Cupid has earned $1,326,803 on a record of four wins and one second in eight starts.