So far Bob Baffert hasn’t announced that henceforth he wishes to be addressed as ‘Rebel Bob’. In fact, I’d strongly advise anyone that encounters the silvered hair horse racing icon to *not* address him in that matter. It would be appropriate, however, as on Saturday Baffert earned his sixth Rebel Stakes victory in seven years as Cupid took the win in his stakes race debut.
The win gives Baffert another nice potential runner at the 2016 Kentucky Derby in addition to Mor Spirit. Cupid could end up being much more than just ‘another runner’, however, as he’s showing signs that might make him the ‘wise guy darling’ heading into the race. And Bob Baffert is apparently not concerned about the ‘Curse of Apollo’–that ‘curse’ is often cited as the reason that no horse has won the Kentucky Derby unraced as a two year old since 1882. Cupid has now won two of his three career starts–he begin his racing year taking second in a maiden special weight at Santa Anita in January and followed that up with a MSW victory one month later. The Rebel Stakes win was his third career start.
Cupid did make a couple of mistakes–Baffert dismissed them as the result of being ‘green’ but also showed some serious speed and competitive fire. Cupid froze a beat at the start giving his rivals a second or so jump start out of the gate. He quickly recovered from that by turning in some sick fractions– 22.96, 46.82 (half mile) and 1:12.11 (six furlongs). At the top of the stretch, however, he inexplicably veered toward the rail. Jockey Martin Garcia quickly corrected the horse and he dispatched the challenge of Whitmore to earn the victory.
Baffert noted the small mistakes but focused on the positive: “Turning for home he made that move. I don’t know what it was, just a little green there. Made a left there a little bit, lost his momentum.” In fact, Baffert says he views the ‘recovery’ as a major positive for a young horse: “I saw that horse rolling down the middle of the track, I thought, ‘Well, we’ll see what he’s made of’. That’s when you start seeing what they’re made of, when they kick back in like that. That’s what you want to see this time of year, show some grit, show some guts, and he really laid it down.”
No announcement yet as to what is next for Cupid but Baffert is reportedly leaning toward a run in the March 16 Arkansas Derby.