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Hot Springs, Ark. (Saturday, March 19, 2016) – One year after winning the Rebel Stakes with eventual Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert finally returned with the right horse after two unsuccessful trips earlier this season and won the $900,000 race with Coolmore’s Cupid. Overall, it was Baffert’s sixth victory in the race since 2010. His other winners were champion Lookin at Lucky, Secret Circle, The Factor and Hoppertunity.
Using his inside post position to his advantage, Cupid went to the front right from the start and proceed to lead his 13 other rivals through fractions of :22 4/5 and :46 4/5 while being tracked by Siding Spring and Madtap. Jockey Martin Garcia was able to give Cupid a breather into the far turn and it allowed him to keep just enough in reserve to hold off Whitmore to win by 1 ¼ lengths in a final time of 1:43 4/5 for 1 1/16 miles over a fast track. Creator, who like Cupid is a gray son of Tapit, came on willingly for third.
“I am so happy that he ran so well, especially for Martin,” said Baffert by phone. “He works so hard getting these horses ready and he got the win. I’m happy for the Coolmore (owners) gang, too. I knew going in he was a nice horse. But he never had been tested and that was a pretty strong bunch. That was like the Tapit Rebel.
“We got a little beat up that last couple of times we were at Oaklawn (this year). The last time we went there Jimmy said they were booing him. We kept throwing 3-year-olds at them and we finally found the right one. I’m just very happy.”
Cherry Wine, who shipped in from Dale Roman’s barn in South Florida, finished fourth, a head in front of 5-2 favorite and Southwest Stakes winner Suddenbreakingnews. They were followed by Gray Sky, Discreetness, Cutacorner, Spikes Shirl, Ralis, Z Royal, Madtap, American Dubai and Siding Spring.
Cupid, who just broke his maiden Feb. 7, was winning for the second straight time in his fourth career start. He has now earned $587,500. He also jumps into fourth in the Kentucky Derby points standing after receiving 50 points for his victory. Whitmore is now 10th with 24 points after finishing second in the Rebel and Southwest Stakes.
Suddenbreakingnews, who earned 10 points by winning the Southwest, and Discreetness, who has 10 points from his victory in the Smarty Jones, are sitting at #25 and #27, respectively and would need a top four performance in the $1,000,000 Arkansas Derby April 16 to advance on to Churchill. The Arkansas Derby offers a 170 total points with 100 points to the winner.
Live racing resumes Sunday at Oaklawn with a 1:30 p.m. first post.
Rebel Stakes Quotes
Winning Bob Baffert, trainer Cupid – “You never know what they’re going to do when they ship, and when there are 14 horses (in the field). He missed the break a little bit, and I had told Martin (Garcia) that the last time we went there we got destroyed leaving the gate. Once he got the lead down the backside, he was going pretty fast. He showed he’s improving and he’s a fast horse. Down the backside, he looked like he was really doing it easier than the time said. Turning for home, I don’t know what it was, but he looked a little green there and lost a little momentum. He was on the rail tight and was probably looking around. He was maybe too close to the rail, and I’ve seen horses do that. He’s a lightly raced horse.
“I am so happy that he ran so well, especially for Martin. He works so hard getting these horses ready and he got the win. I’m happy for the Coolmore (owners) gang, too. I knew going in he was a nice horse. But he never had been tested and that was a pretty strong bunch. That was like the Tapit Rebel.
When Whitmore came at him late: “I was sweating at the break when he didn’t break. I was worried they were going to close up on him like that they did with Collected last time. But once he got him rolling….When that horse came rolling down the middle of the stretch I thought we’ll see hat he’s made of. That’s when we realized what he’s made of. He started to kick back in. That what you want to see this time of year, them showing some grits and some guts. He looked fantastic in the paddock and the post parade. He was ready to run and he ran like he looked.
“We’ll bring him back here, as long as he doesn’t get light on us. He likes a little time in between his races. I’m just really happy.”
Winning jockey Martin Garica, Cupid – “It’s hard for horses to break their maiden and then step up to this kind of company with this many people around and win, but he did. He’s still green. When we hit the top of the stretch, he got lonely and he locked in on the other horse that was coming up on the outside he responded one more time. He showed a lot of ability and we know he can run. He really proved today that he is improving. The distance doesn’t matter, he can go as far as he wants.”
Trainer Ron Moquett, 2nd with Whitmore: “I’m sick of Baffert. As bad as I felt all day and night, I’m more sick of Bob Baffert. That horse was able to get his second quarter in :24. These caliber of horses don’t come back from that. When you’re a $900,000 Tapit, bred to be what he is, they don’t back up. You give them a 24-second quarter … nobody went with him. I thought somebody would go with him.”
NOTE: Moquett had food poisoning and was questionable to saddle Whitmore for the Rebel.
Jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., 2nd on Whitmore – “Take nothing away from the winner, he’s a nice horse too. My horse was running and came ready to run but we were just 2nd best today. We will be ready for the Arkansas Derby and see what’s next for us there.”
Trainer Steve Asmussen, 3rd with Creator and 12th with Madtap: “Very solid. He’s run quite a bit recently; that’s his third race in five weeks.”
(On Arkansas Derby): “I think that looks (logical) if we’re in as good of shape. We’ve got a month from today, so hopefully that will help us.”
(On Madtap) “It was too much,” referring to pressing a fast pace.”
(On Cupid): “Nice horse. Quality animal. Very good horse.”
Jockey Corey Lanerie, 4th on Cherry Wine – “He doesn’t have any speed, so it worked out good. I got over. The second turn, I had to make a decision to go out or stay in and I stayed in. I had a trip. I think the added distance will only help my horse.
Trainer Dale Romans, 4th with Cherry Wine – “ I thought that he ran an impressive race, and a Derby-horse style race. It was a big field, he split horses, bounced around and kept running. He’ll only improve when they stretch out.”
(On Arkansas Derby) “I’m going to sit back and look at all the options.”
(Unbridled Outlaw is also an option for the Arkansas Derby)
(On Cupid and Baffert winning Rebel six of last seven years): “Baffert’s the best. He’s good at everything he does. He can win everything but the Travers.” (Reference to Keen Ice beating American Pharoah, though Baffert did win Travers with Point Given)
Jockey Luis Quinonez, 5th on favorite Suddenbreakingnews – “I was able to save ground, but in the turn I got stopped. I had trouble. Once I got clear, he came running. If I hadn’t gotten stopped, he would have been right there.”
Donnie K. Von Hemel 5th with Suddenbreakingnews: “We got stopped pretty bad, three-eighths pole or so, I think. He was just getting his momentum going, and he (jockey Luis Quinonez), basically, said a horse stopped right in front of him and had to check pretty hard. Otherwise, he’s probably going to be right there. That’s racing.”
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas, 6th with Gray Sky and 11th the Z Royal: “I thought we got a good effort. I’d like to see it again. It’s so tough to see over there with the trees. But I thought Gray Sky made a real solid move and then he just hung there a little bit. I was pleased.”
Trainer Jinks Fires, 7th with Discreetness: “No excuses. Speed was holding.”
Trainer Jack Van Berg, 8th with Cutacorner: “We just got outrun.”
Trainer Rodney Richards, 13th with American Dubai: “Disappointing. We’re going to go, check him out, see if there’s anything. He just wasn’t really into it a whole lot today.”
(On Cupid, up close to fast pace and kept going) “I thought we were in a good spot, position. A fast pace and a little bit off of it. I thought, ‘Hey, this is perfect for us, just go ahead and move on.’ And he didn’t move on, backing up on us.”
Source: Oaklawn Park
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