Mucciolo: Cupid rates edge in Dirt Mile

Profile Picture: John Mucciolo

November 2nd, 2017

A superb field will go postward in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) on Friday in what I think is among the most appealing betting races over the weekend. A total of 10 will make the gate and a case could easily be made for more than the majority of the field.

CUPID is my upset play for Bob Baffert. Grade 1-winning son of Tapit impressed me when bagging the Gold Cup (G1) in a seasonal debut going 10 furlongs off a long layoff and his pair of races since likely will have the $900,000 yearling buy ready to peak in the Dirt Mile.

I like the workmanlike win two back in a listed stakes over this surface to prove he can handle the quirky Del Mar dirt oval and in the Awesome Again (G1) most recently, the four-year-old was traveling like a runner who might pull clear and leave his foes in the dust to the top of the lane, but finished just evenly late. He may have been left a bit short by Baffert who wants Cupid to deliver his best performance on Friday.

With a genius cut back to a mile, I fully expect Cupid to be firing on all cylinders and inching clear over a fine field late under Rafael Bejarano. 

SHARP AZTECA has run well everywhere he has traveled, with top performances at Churchill Downs, Belmont, Monmouth, Gulfstream Park, Laurel, Santa Anita, Louisiana Downs and even Meydan, recording a close third in this year’s Godolphin Mile (UAE-G2). Jorge Navarro pupil comes off a facile score in the Kelso (G2) and love the fact he got in a bullet drill last week on the Del Mar main oval to acclimate to his surroundings. Dark bay son of Freud shows BRIS Speed figures of 113-107-109-106 from his four runs in the U. S. this season, with a trio of graded wins on the resume, and colt is the speed of the speed. From an inner post draw, Sharp Azteca will be sent to the front at the break by Paco Lopez.

PRATICAL JOKE is a model of high-quality consistency and got a well-deserved Grade 1 trophy when rolling home in most impressive fashion in the Allen Jerkens (G1) at Saratoga in late August. Chad Brown trainee dances every dance and in my humble opinion, a win here should make him a serious Eclipse Award finalist for an excellent body of work in 2017. The outside draw in this spot could be tricky to overcome, though.

ACCELRATE was a sharp third in this race in 2016 and has never been better since sporting blinkers two back. John Sadler trainee made easy work of Arrogate in the San Diego (G2) on this strip and finished a solid third in the Pacific Classic (G1) behind a pair of outstanding Classic contenders. Four-year-old son of Lookin at Lucky is 3-for-4 on his favored oval at Del Mar and training like a runner sitting on a big race. Morning-line second choice looms a huge chance if his form continues.

Baffert’s MOR SPIRIT has been off since June, but his Met Mile (G1) tour-de-force still remains fresh in my memory. Race favorite exploded home in that race in one of the finer performances by any runner in 2017, finishing more than six lengths clear under the line. Dark bay son of Eskendereya has posted BRIS Speed figures of 101-103-107-114 from four outings this campaign and shows a bullet gate drill in a most recent morning work. Dark bay has never run at Del Mar, though, making him hard to fall in love with if he gets bet down.

Kentucky Derby (G1) third BATTLE OF MIDWAY is no slouch, GIANT EXPECTATIONS earned a lifetime-best 105 BRIS Speed number winning the Pat O’Brien (G2) at Del Mar, and late-running AWESOME SLEW has banked more than $640,000 this year while knocking heads with some of the top sprinter/miler types in the country. Longshots IRON FIST and GATO DEL ORO round out the superb cast.

The Dirt Mile should be a tightly contested one from start to finish. I envision a robust early pace established by Sharp Azetca with Accelerate, Mor Spirit and potentially Battle of Midway and Gato del Oro in close attendance.  Cupid figures to be forwardly placed and right off of the second flight, and I think he will make his move nearing the turn for home in what will essentially be the winning move.


I will be playing Cupid to win/place/show, keying him over the entire field in the exacta, and also nibbling with some other vertical plays with him slotted in the first and second spot.