Cupid takes aim at In­di­ana Derby

Daily Racing Form Saturday Stakes Preview - - FRONT PAGE - – Mar­cus Hersh – Jay Priv­man

Cupid ran so well in win­ning the Rebel Stakes in March at Oak­lawn Park that he looked like a colt who could win the Ken­tucky Derby. At this point, any old derby – any old win, for that mat­ter – would be a step back in the right di­rec­tion for Cupid.

A month af­ter his rous­ing Rebel win, Cupid’s ar­row badly missed the tar­get in the Arkansas Derby. He set the pace, fell away tamely, and came across the wire 10th. In­stead of go­ing to the Ken­tucky Derby, Cupid went to an equine clinic, where he had surgery for a breath­ing prob­lem that led to his Arkansas Derby flop. He re­turned to ac­tion on the Bel­mont Stakes card June 11 but un­der­per­formed again, fin­ish­ing a dis­tant fifth in the Easy Goer.

But trainer Bob Baf­fert be­lieves Cupid is back on track, and he shipped him Wed­nes­day from Cal­i­for­nia for the Grade 2, $500,000 In­di­ana Derby on Satur­day night at In­di­ana Grand. Cupid was one of 12 horses en­tered Wed­nes­day in the In­di­ana Derby and was in­stalled as the 3-1 sec­ond choice be­hind 5-2 morn­ing-line fa­vorite Cherry Wine, whose most note­wor­thy per­for­mance was a sec­ond-place fin­ish in the Preak­ness Stakes.

“Cupid, he worked pretty well the other day,” Baf­fert said. “On his day, you know he’s there.”

The full field for the 1 1/16mile In­di­ana Derby, in post­po­si­tion or­der with jock­eys and odds, is: Dis­creet Lover (Jose Flores, 20-1), Cherry Wine (Luis Saez, 5-2), Pi­lot House (Richard Bra­cho, 10-1), Takeit­totheedge (Miguel Mena, 15-1), The Player (Shaun Bridg­mo­han, 6-1), Cocked and Loaded (Wil­lie Martinez, 30-1), Seek­ing Blame (Brian Her­nan­dez Jr., 15-1), What­ev­ery­body­wants (Robby Al­barado, 12-1), Tor­rontes (Al­bin Jimenez, 20-1), Call the Colonel (Santo San­jur, 20-1), Cupid (Rafael Be­jarano, 3-1), and Star Hill (Corey Lanerie, 6-1).

Baf­fert two week­ends ago shipped Amer­i­can Free­dom to win the Iowa Derby at Prairie Mead­ows. A year af­ter Amer­i­can Pharoah’s Triple Crown run, Baf­fert is dis­pers­ing his sopho­more class across the coun­try for rich stakes op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“We’re on the dirt-road derby trail right now,” he said. “We’ve got some nice 3-year-olds, so we’re try­ing to load up, pick our spots, and have fun. I think these 3-year-olds this year are a pretty good group of horses. Last year, Pharoah, he was just cut from a dif­fer­ent cloth.”

Baf­fert has won the In­di­ana Derby with Mis­re­mem­bered in 2009, Lookin At Lucky in 2010, and Power Bro­ker in 2013. If Cupid, a front-run­ning type, is to give Baf­fert his fourth win, he’ll need to over­come post 11. In 1 1/16-mile dirt races at In­di­ana Grand since 2010, post Nos. 9-12 have pro­duced just eight win­ners from 138 starts. Star Hill, third in the Pat Day Mile and the Woody Stephens Stakes, has an even worse draw in post 12.

The Player, a win­ner of two races in a row, both at Churchill Downs, could be an ap­peal­ing al­ter­na­tive to the fa­vorites. Cocked and Loaded is an un­cer­tain run­ner, with his con­nec­tions also eye­ing the Curlin Stakes at Saratoga.

Baf­fert will have a chance at a graded-stakes dou­ble Satur­day night with Em­mzy, one of eight fil­lies in the Grade 2, $200,000 In­di­ana Oaks, also over 1 1/16 miles. The other en­trants, from the rail out, are Dream Dance, Dothraki Queen, Mines and Magic, Missalaney, Sweet Legacy, Fam­ily Tree, and Walk­a­bout.

Em­mzy has won both of her starts since Baf­fert stretched her from sprints to routes. He con­sid­ered ship­ping her to Iowa for the Iowa Oaks, which Fam­ily Tree won, but kept Em­mzy home for an al­lowance race in­stead, which she won eas­ily.

There are four other $100,000 stakes – three of which drew fields of 10 or more – on a very good 10-race Satur­day program that has straight maiden and al­lowance races fill­ing out the un­der­card. First post is 6:05 p.m. East­ern, with the Oaks sched­uled for 9:11 and the In­di­ana Derby for 9:41. The weather fore­cast calls for mod­er­ate tem­per­a­tures and partly cloudy con­di­tions.

Del Mar: Yel­low Rib­bon

She’s Not Here, whose suc­cess­ful in­va­sion of Del Mar last sum­mer re­sulted in a pair of wins, will de­fend her ti­tle on Satur­day in the Grade 2, $200,000 Yel­low Rib­bon Hand­i­cap, which is for fe­male grass run­ners and the first graded stakes race of the meet.

She’s Not Here is seek­ing to turn around a year that has been dis­ap­point­ing thus far. She is win­less in three starts and now has five losses – all out of the money – since her vic­tory in last year’s Yel­low Rib­bon.

In two of her races this year, though, she faced Tepin, and there’s noth­ing like her in the Yel­low Rib­bon.

At least eight were ex­pected for the Yel­low Rib­bon, a 1 1/16mile grass race that was run on clos­ing week­end last year but has been moved to the first week­end this year. Oth­ers ex­pected in­clude Finest City, Fresh Fe­line, Her Em­my­nency, Keri Belle, Ma­jes­tic Heat, Prize Ex­hibit, and Queen of The Sand, with Fan­ti­cola and Nancy From Nairobi also pos­si­ble.

Queen of The Sand is a course spe­cial­ist, hav­ing fin­ished first or sec­ond in five of her seven starts here. This will be her first start since last Novem­ber, when she was sec­ond in the Grade 2 Goldikova and then fourth in the Grade 1 Ma­tri­arch be­fore head­ing to the side­lines.

Her Em­my­nency was sec­ond here last sum­mer in the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks.

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