Tag: buff bradley

By Jennie Rees, Eclipse Award-winning freelance writer

The good Cupid showed up for Indiana Grand’s $500,000 Indiana Derby on Saturday night, and the result was a hard-earned victory by three-quarters of length while fending off The Player’s late surge.

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert won Indiana’s biggest horse race for a record fourth time in absentia. He was at a nephew’s wedding in Mexico, with the race going off during the ceremony.

“This thing just ended, just getting over,” he said by phone. “I didn’t see it. I was in the church there, and I was just hoping that my phone would start going off a lot, because that’s a sign of victory. Because when it’s quiet, it’s not good. All of a sudden, I felt it buzz and buzz and buzz.

“I haven’t even talked to Jimmy (assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes)… I don’t even know who ran second… I’m just happy for the horse. His last race was so disappointing.”

Yes, Cupid showed heart in the Grade II race after being drubbed in his prior two starts: finishing 10th in the Arkansas Derby, after which he underwent throat surgery to correct a breathing obstruction, and then a bad last of five in Belmont Park’s non-graded Easy Goer Stakes. So in the Indiana Derby, handicappers had to decide whether the Cupid who won Oaklawn Park’s Grade II Rebel Stakes to look like a Kentucky Derby contender would resurface, or if the prior two fiascos were the new norm.

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By Jennie Rees, Eclipse Award-winning freelance writer

A capacity field of twelve 3-year-olds were entered Wednesday for Saturday’s $500,000 Indiana Derby at Indiana Grand. But to trainer Bob Baffert, the Grade II race comes down to two horses.

One is the Cupid that won a Santa Anita maiden race by 5 1/4 lengths in fast time in his first start around two turns, then followed it up by leading all the way to defeat a good field in Oaklawn Park’s Grade II, $900,000 Rebel Stakes. That made him become something of a fashionable “wise-guy” pick for the Kentucky Derby.

The other is the Cupid of his past two starts, including languishing home 10th by a total of 11 1/4 lengths as the odds-on favorite in the Arkansas Derby when he returned to Oaklawn from California a month later. He underwent a throat procedure to correct a breathing obstruction that surfaced in the Arkansas Derby, knocking him out of the Kentucky Derby and possible Preakness berth. However, Cupid again faded to last of five, beaten 10 lengths, when he resumed racing in Belmont Park’s non-graded Easy Goer Stakes.

“He needs to fire, needs to show up,” Baffert said by phone from California after Cupid drew post 11. “He didn’t show up the last two times. If he shows up, he’ll be tough, no matter what post he’s in.”

Bill Downes, Indiana Grand’s odds-maker and track announcer, made the late-running Cherry Wine the 5-2 morning-line favorite, given his good efforts in some of the biggest races for 3-year-olds: a second in Pimlico’s Preakness after being a close third in Keeneland’s Toyota Blue Grass. The speedier Cupid is the 3-1 second choice. However, he wouldn’t be a surprising post-time favorite, given the way Baffert horses get bet. Rafael Bejarano comes in from California to ride.

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By Jennie Rees, Eclipse Award-winning freelance writer

 

As great as the unbeaten Hall of Fame filly Personal Ensign was on the racetrack, she was as memorable as a broodmare, an extremely rare combination.

Now, six years after Personal Ensign’s death, she could play a role in Saturday’s $500,000 Indiana Derby at Indiana Grand. Seeking Blame, who comes into the 1 1/16-mile, Grade II stakes off a strong maiden victory at Churchill Downs, is a son of Personal Ensign’s daughter Title Seeker.

Personal Ensign thrilled the racing world when, after rebounding from a potentially career-ending hind leg fracture at age 2, she got up on the last stride in the mud to beat Kentucky Derby heroine Winning Colors by a nose in the 1988 Breeders’ Cup Distaff. It remains one of the Breeders’ Cup’s most memorable races and allowed Personal Ensign to retire 13 for 13.

She was equally influential as a mom and grandma, producing two-time Grade I winner My Flag, who in turn produced the champion filly Storm Flag Flying — marking three generations of Breeders’ Cup winners. Personal Ensign also gave birth to Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Miner’s Mark, Grade I Oaklawn Handicap winner Traditionally and Our Emblem, a useful horse best known as the sire of 2002 Kentucky Derby winner War Emblem.

Personal Ensign’s nine foals to race all proved winners for owner-breeder Ogden Phipps and his family. Title Seeker, by 2001 Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos, did not race and instead was sold as a 3-year-old at Keeneland’s November sale for $1.7 million to Charles Fipke, the geologist who helped found Canada’s first diamond mine. Title Seeker already has produced a graded-stakes winner in Seeking the Title.

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By Jennie Rees, Eclipse Award Winning Freelance Writer

The 3-year-old Pilot House, part of what is expected to be a full field for the $500,000 Indiana Derby on July 16 at Indiana Grand, was a promising colt when he won his first start last year at Monmouth Park. Now he’s a promising gelding.

Because after that debut performance, Pilot House had three straight double-digit drubbings. Sent to Tom Amoss in the Midwest, the Maggi Moss-owned Pilot House got one more chance at Indiana Grand and wound up a distance fourth in an allowance race. After that debacle, he also wound up a gelding, with such castration in horse racing jokingly known by the old Marcus Antonius’ quote in Shakespeare: “the most unkindest cut of all.”

That aside, gelding did the trick, with Pilot House winning a grass allowance race at Indiana Grand in his next start, followed by a 4 3/4-length second-level allowance victory at Thistledown to earn his shot at the Grade II Indiana Derby.

“I thought he was a better horse than what he was showing in his races,” said Amoss, one of Indiana Grand’s all-time winningest trainers. “He just wasn’t showing what he was showing us in the mornings. He didn’t have a bad attitude. But he was showing talent in the mornings that wasn’t being displayed in the afternoon.”

In Pilot House’s case, it wasn’t a matter of him being too unruly or a physical problem as often leads to gelding a horse.

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