Arkansas Derby Picks: Cupid Deserving Favorite for Baffert

A field of 12 will line up in Saturday's Grade 1 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. (Photo credit: Bigstock).

A field of 12 will line up in Saturday’s Grade 1 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. (Photo credit: Bigstock).

Trainer Bob Baffert is back in Hot Springs on Saturday, saddling Cupid as the colt is sent off as the likely favorite, which would make it six years in a row that the Hall of Fame trainer has sent out the betting favorite for Oaklawn Park’s marquee race.

American Pharoah was the winner last year at 1-9, Bayern was in third at 3-2 in 2014, War Academy was 9-5 in 2013 but did not finish, Bodemeister was 2-1 in his victory in 2012, and The Factor was seventh in 2011 at 4-5.

With Baffert’s success at Oaklawn Park (he is 13 for 30 dating back five years, 11 of those wins coming in graded stakes), Cupid seems likely to drift south from his 2-1 morning line.

The race is the final major Road to the Kentucky Derby points race, with 100-40-20-10 points up for grabs. Cupid has already stamped his ticket to Louisville with his Rebel victory.

He will face six foes he beat in the Rebel including runner up Whitmore and third place finisher Creator. Suddenbreakingnews was fifth in the Rebel as the beaten favorite.

Whitmore has 24 Derby points, good for 23rd in the points standings, Suddenbreakingnews is 28th with 10 points and Creator is 31st with 10 points. Each need to pick up some points to make it into the Kentucky Derby field. Adventist is currently in 20th place with 32 points.

If Cupid is your pick, the colt is currently listed at +1000 at in early Kentucky Derby wagering. That price figures to drop with another big performance on Saturday.

Nyquist is the current favorite at at +300 while Mohaymen is at +500.

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Let’s head out to Oaklawn Park for Saturday’s featured race of the day:


Oaklawn Park Race 11 The Arkansas Derby G1 Post time 6:18 CT

10 Cupid   2-1

7 Dazzling Gem   12-1

8 Whitmore   9-2

4 Suddenbreakingnews   5-1 

Cupid will be the sixth consecutive betting favorite Bob Baffert has sent out in this race, winning it twice with Bodemeister and with American Pharoah last year. The colt took the field gate to wire to win the Rebel (G2) last out in his stakes debut. He has moved forward in each outing and owns solid early and mid pace numbers.

He is already in the Kentucky Derby field so he does not have to win here, but Baffert is so tough shipping to Hot Springs, winning with 13 of his last 30 starters here. He was a $900,000 Keeneland purchase and has three sibs that are also stakes winners including Heart Ashley ($395,896) and Ashley’s Kitty ($349,268).

Dazzling Gem ran third in the Louisiana Derby (G2) behind the talented Gun Runner, beaten 5 ¾ lengths. It was his stakes debut having won his first two career starts. His Beyer is on the light side but his last out BRIS speed fig is only bested by Cupid and Gettysburg.

The Brad Cox trainee has good tactical speed and should get a good trip toward the front. Worth a look if he goes off near his 12-1 morning line as he still appears to have some upside.

Whitmore drew a tough spot last out in the Rebel and made a good middle move to get into the mix but could not catch Cupid in the stretch in a runner up finish, beaten 1 ¼ lengths for the top spot. Two back in the Southwest (G3) he ran well in a runner up finish behind Suddenbreakingnews, beaten 2 ¾ lengths.

The extra ground here at nine furlongs should suit this guy, who is by Pleasantly Perfect out of a Scat Daddy mare. He will be coming late but seems more likely to land another minor share.


WIN: Cupid to win at 9-5 or better.

EXACTA: 7,10 / 4,7,8,10

TRIFECTA: 7,10 / 4,7,8,10 / 4,7,8,10,12


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