If we thought the Rebel Stakes cleared up the Kentucky Derby picture, then I think it is quite safe to say that the Arkansas Derby muddied it.
Going in Cupid had a tall order ahead of him, but given the impressive race he ran in the Rebel, the Arkansas Derby seemed to still be within his scope. However, like Mohaymen in the Florida Derby, he ran horrible. The only difference was instead of finishing a well beaten fourth, he finished a terrible 10th.
Yes, he had a wide post.
Yes, he got squeezed a bit at the start.
It is true that he was very close to a hot pace.
However, none of that is an excuse for such a poor effort, especially when he looked much the best on paper.
Before the race, I wrote a piece on Horse Racing Nation questioning if he could overcome his post, inexperience and pedigree. It looks as though I was now right to question these things.
In regards to his pedigree, I was told by several that you cannot judge a mare by her production record.
Turns out that you can.
However, my point has always been less about the mare, and more about Tapit’s need for a mare that has great stamina influences to produce a distance runner. A mare who had never thrown a foal to win beyond seven furlongs, until Cupid, is not that type of mare.
I know those who still believe his pedigree screams classic distances will point to his wide post position and his being too close to a hot pace as reasons for his poor performance, but that begs the question: Why was Gettysburg, who broke from post 12 and set the pace, able to hold on for fifth place? Why was he able to hold on, when Cupid folded like a cheap tent?
If Cupid cannot handle a little bit of trouble away from the gate, then what business does he have in Kentucky?
If Cupid cannot handle a fast pace, while under pressure, then what business does he have in Kentucky?
The answer is absolutely none.
The horses that do have business being in Kentucky are the top two finishers, Creator and Suddenbreakingnews.
The latter rebounded off a disappointing fifth in the Rebel Stakes, to run a fast-closing second to Creator. However, for the life of me, I don’t understand what his rider was thinking during later stages of the race.
When he was a juvenile, Suddenbreakingnews showed that he had the ability to run well when forwardly placed and he broke well enough on Saturday to be closer to the pace than he was. However, jockey Luis S. Quinonez grabbed ahold of him, taking him back to sit ninth of 12.
In the later stages, when the running was beginning in earnest, instead of asking his mount for run, Quinonez let Creator and Whitmore run past him, allowing them to get a sizable jump on his mount.
Turning into the stretch, he also took Suddenbreakingnews extremely wide, which is understandable. However, when you allow other closers to run right by you, you can’t afford to lose any more ground. Despite the ride, Suddenbreakingnews still finished strongly enough to get by Whitmore for second. Unfortunetly, he was unable to get to Creator.
Moving forward, I think a rider change to a more confident and aggressive rider would be prudent. If the connections want to win the Kentucky Derby, then a timid rider is not what they need.
Even with all of this, I will take nothing away from Creator. Ricardo Santana Jr. rode a brilliant race and with the help of his fleet-footed stablemate Gettysburg, Creator got his Grade I win. The son of Tapit finished extremely well in the Rebel Stakes, despite Cupid being alone on the lead that day, and he backed that up with this win on Saturday.
For his effort, he earned a 100 BRIS speed figure and a 96 Beyer speed figure, which compares favorably to the top runners in his class.
If he can continue to move forward he will be a very dangerous horse on Derby Day.
He is bred for the distance and more, with his mother being a Peruvian Champion at two and three, winning at the 10-furlong distance of the Derby several times.
While closers don’t do well in the Kentucky Derby, historically speaking, Creator is on the upswing. He is by America’s hottest sire, with solid pedigree and foundation. If he can maintain his forward trajectory there is no reason he can’t succeed on the first Saturday in May.