Cupid out, Mo Tom gets into Kentucky Derby

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

April 18th, 2016

Speculation had swirled about Cupid’s status for the Kentucky Derby (G1) following his 10th as the 4-5 favorite in last Saturday’s Arkansas Derby (G1). Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert didn’t prolong the suspense, telling Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman Monday that Cupid was officially out of Derby consideration.

Pressing on to the Kentucky Derby didn’t appear to be in Cupid’s best interest, considering how he fluffed the start in the Arkansas Derby, was hustled to recover between foes, and rushed to stalk a ferocious pace. He’d overcome a similar faux pas at the break of the Rebel (G2), but with a kinder pace scenario. With the relentless tempo going longer in the Arkansas Derby, Cupid came undone.

This was hardly the way you’d want to advance to Churchill Downs. Connections with a once-in-a-lifetime shot at the Derby may understandably be tempted to go ahead anyway. But Cupid’s team wasn’t the type to push on at all costs.

Moreover, keeping in mind who’s on the Derby bubble, and the overall chessboard of the breeding industry, his withdrawal seemed likely.

Cupid is owned by the Coolmore principals of Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier, and Derrick Smith, who purchased the son of Gainesway stallion Tapit for $900,000 as a Keeneland September yearling.

Coolmore America stands hot young sire Uncle Mo, who has a great chance of siring a Derby winner in his first crop with unbeaten champion Nyquist. Uncle Mo has another safely in the Derby field, Wood Memorial (G1) winner Outwork. Yet another son of Uncle Mo, Mo Tom, found himself on the outside looking in at number 21 on the points list – after brutal trouble in both the Risen Star (G2) and Louisiana Derby (G2).

Coolmore’s brain trust thus held the fate of Mo Tom in their own hands. Wouldn’t you remove a disappointing candidate, by another farm’s stallion, and thereby help your stallion to three Derby starters in his first crop?

Of course, if Cupid had done his job at Oaklawn, Coolmore would have been quite happy to head to the Derby with a future Coolmore America stallion by North America’s record-setting sire. But he didn't, and the equation changed as a result.

Yet the decision didn’t need to be made that quickly. After all, given the usual rash of defections this time of year, Mo Tom may well have gotten in anyway, Cupid or no. A watching brief, to see whether Cupid would be the one keeping Mo Tom out, might have been expected.

But Cupid hastened that decision: as Privman reported (subsequently reposted for all by Paulick Report), Cupid exited the Arkansas Derby with an entrapped epiglottis. He’s to undergo a minor procedure to correct this Monday, and Baffert is regrouping for the Preakness (G1).

Now Mo Tom fans don’t have to agonize over what-might-have-beens in the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby, worrying about Derby points lost, and counting down the days while waiting for a defection. That’s great for owners GMB Racing – Gayle and Tom Benson of New Orleans Saints and Pelicans fame – who now have two Derby starters along with Tom’s Ready. It’s arguably even better news for Mo Tom’s trainer Tom Amoss, since he doesn’t have Tom’s Ready (trained by fellow New Orleanian Dallas Stewart).

Cupid’s defection has another significant ramification: the projected Kentucky Derby pace scenario. Although Danzing Candy remains the likely front runner, and Outwork and Nyquist have early speed, the presence of Cupid would have contributed to the tempo. The deep closers, ironically including Mo Tom, would have preferred to see him in the mix.

With Mo Tom moving up to number 20, Fellowship is now the closest bubble horse in 21st. Here's the updated leaderboard from Churchill Downs:

Cupid photo courtesy Oaklawn/Coady Photography.