ARCADIA, CA — Idle since September 24, Bob Baffert’s Cupid was plenty fit as he rolled to a convincing 3 1/4-length win in the Grade 1, $500,000 Gold Cup at Santa Anita.
Run at Hollywood Park from 1938 through 2013, the Gold Cup was contested for the 78th time time. Baffert chalked up his sixth win in the iconic fixture for three year olds and up, two behind the legendary Charlie Whittingham.
A comfortable fourth down the backside and into the far turn, Cupid, a 4-year-old gray colt by Tapit, then kicked into gear, easily overhauling both Midnight Storm and the pace-setting American Freedom turning for home.
“Cupid, off that long layoff, his class showed up, and he’s been working so well,” said Baffert. “I told Bejarano he was going to ride Cupid. He liked American Freedom, but I wanted to do it differently. (This horse) has changed a lot. He’s really filled out. He’s always been a beautiful horse. We took the back roads with him last year and made over a million dollars.
“(The owners) have been great and they’ve kept him in training. We freshened him up, and here we are. I got an important Grade 1, which is very important for a horse like him.”
Sidelined following a dismal effort in the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby on September 24, Cupid went to the bench with victories in the Grade 2 West Virginia Derby, the Grade 2 Indiana Derby, and the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes.
“My horse broke really well,” said Bejarano, who snared his first-ever Gold Cup win. “I put a little pressure on at the 1/2-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.”
Owned by Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier, and Derrick Smith, Cupid improved his overall mark to 10-5-1-0. With the winner’s share of $300,000, he increased his earnings to $1,636,803.
While Cupid had an idyllic trip, Follow Me Crev, ridden by Kent Desormeaux, had anything but. He was sandwiched leaving the gate by the winner’s stablemate, American Freedom, and Prime Attraction.
“I was taken out of the race in the first jump,” said Desormeaux. “It was phenomenal effort by the Wilsons’ (owners, Holly and David) horse because he took a punch and body blow the first jump. Ridiculous. A mile and a 1/4. These guys can’t drive. I would have been a couple lengths behind him (the winner), and instead, I was 20 back. My horse has more speed than where I was today.”
Follow Me Crev, the third choice in the wagering at 7-2, finished 2 3/4 lengths in front of a late-closing Hard Aces, the 2015 Gold Cup winner, who passed Midnight Storm late to take third by a nose.
“He ran his race – on the turn, he relaxed well, and on the backside, same thing,” said Flavien Prat, Midnight Storm’s rider. “After that, he just didn’t quicken. He ran his race and just got beat by a very good horse today.”
American Freedom, Big John B, and Prime Attraction completed the order of finish.
Fractions on the race were 23.04, 46.52, 1:10.62, and 1:35.37.
Cupid returned $16.00, $8.20 ,and $6. Follow Me Crev brought back $4.80 and $3.20, while Hard Aces paid $5.60 to show.
Additional Race Quotes
Trainer Bob Baffert, Cupid: “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.
“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.”
In regards to his 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.”
Santa Anita Park