Regardless of which racetrack he choses and what horse he sends to the post, trainer Bob Baffert always seem to pick the right spot his major stakes competitors. On Saturday, Baffert registered his third victory in the past seven editions of the Grade 2, $ 750,000 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort.
This time it was a colt named Cupid, who took the lead all but immediately out of the gate under 34-year-old jockey Rafael Bejarano. From there it was an exercise in catch-me-if-you-can, and while the 33-1 longshot Pinson drew with a half-length at the half-mile pole, no horse in the remainder of the ten-horse field mounted any sort of serious threat during the entirety of the race.
Mountaineer’s inside rail has been unusually deep and slow in recent months, and Bejarano steered Cupid wide going around the first turn and even wider on the turn into the stretch. “Bejarano’s done his homework!” said track announcer Peter Berry midway through his stretch call. Seems he did.
Cupid’s margin of victory was four lengths. His fractions were :23.51 for the quarter, :47.97 for the half, 1:11.69 for three-quarters, and 1:37.37 for the mile. Cupid’s final time was 1:50.54, the fastest for a West Virginia Derby in three years. He returned $ 5, $ 3,80, and $ 3 across the board. Track conditions were fast.
Whateverybodywants, sent off at 74-1 with Robby Albarado aboard, finished two lengths clear for second. He returned $ 36.60 for place and $ 11 for show. Name Changer, another longshot at 16-1, finished third by a length and returned $ 8.40 to show.
Completing the order were Anaximandros, the 2-1 post-time second choice Suddenbreakingingnews, Forevamo, Adventist, Pinson, Van Damme, and No Distortion. Mo Tom was a scratch from the race, as was Economic Model.
Previous West Virginia Derby winners trained by Baffert include Concord Point in 2010 and Prayer for Relief in 2011. Baffert was not at Mountaineer for this year’s edition of the race. Saddling chores were handled by Baffert’s 56-year-old assistant, Jimmy Barnes
“I won this race before (with Sir Shackleton in 2004 and with Prayer for Relief),” said Bejarano in the winner’s circle. “They (Baffert and company) have really been working hard with Cupid. Bejarano further noted that when he rode Cupid in the Grade 2 Indiana Derby on July 16, had to in effect push the colt out of the gate. “I let him go (this time) and gave him some confidence.”
Cupid is now thrice a Grade 2 winner, on the strength of his triumphs in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park in March, the Indiana Derby at Indiana Grand, and at Mountaineer. His career record includes eight starts, from which he has gained four victories and a second-place finish. His $ 446,250 share of the West Virginia Derby purse elevated Cupid’s career purse earnings to $ 1,326,803.
The Mountaineer effort by Cupid came only three weeks after his Indiana Derby score, which “was a quick turnaround,” acknowledged Barnes. During that period, Cupid was shipped back to his Southern California base at Del Mar, then from there to West Virginia’s upper panhandle track.
“Any time (racehorses) are going well, you have to take advantage of it,” said Barnes. “(Cupid) is a good feeling colt.” According to Barnes, Cupid will now ship back to California again, and a future race for him as yet to be picked out.
Co-owned by Coolmore associates Michael B. Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier, and Derrick Smith, Cupid was purchased for $ 900,000 as a yearling. He is the third son of the top North American Tapit to win the West Virginia Derby – the others are Concord Point and Tapiture in 2014.
Watch the race replay here:
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