February 25, 2021

Cupid heads Awesome Again; Paradise Woods, Moonshine Memories also featured at Santa Anita

Cupid winning the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1) , on May 27, 2017 © BENOIT PHOTO

Winner of his first two starts this year, Cupid can enhance his Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) credentials in Saturday’s $300,000 Awesome Again (G1) at Santa Anita. The 4-year-old tops an eight-horse field in the 1 1/8-mile event.

The Awesome Again is one of five “Win & You’re In” races for the Breeders’ Cup at “The Great Race Place” Saturday.

By Gainesway Farm’s leading stallion Tapit, Cupid was on the Triple Crown trail early last year and wound up posting wins in the Indiana Derby (G2) and West Virginia Derby (G2) before heading to the sidelines after an unplaced finish in the Pennsylvania Derby (G2). The gray returned with vengeance in late May, rolling to a 3 ¼-length decision in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1), and he exits a near one-length decision in the August 23 Harry Brubaker at Del Mar.

After being more of a confirmed front-runner last season, Cupid has shown more tractability rallying from just off the pace in both starts this year.

Rafael Bejarano retains the mount on the Coolmore colorbearer and Cupid is one of two runners for Bob Baffert. The Hall of Fame trainer will be represented for the first time by Group 2 scorer Mubtaahij, who was last seen finishing fourth in the Dubai World Cup (G2) in late March. The 5-year-old has raced in America and Dubai the last couple of years, finishing second in the 2016 Woodward (G1) while under the direction of Kiaran McLaughlin, and Mubtaahij shows 11 published workouts since early July in Southern California for Baffert. Drayden Van Dyke takes over the mount on the Irish-bred horse.

Midnight Storm brings high speed to the equation. A Grade 1 winner on turf, the 6-year-old has shown his prowess on the main track this year for Phil D’Amato, recording a pair of Grade 2 wins and placing in the Santa Anita H. (G1) and Oaklawn H. (G2). The front-running son of Pioneerof the Nile exits a close fourth in the August 20 Del Mar Mile (G2) on turf.

Canadian Grade 2 victor Breaking Lucky ships west for Reade Baker after a pair of non-threatening thirds to Gun Runner in the Stephen Foster (G1) and Whitney (G1). Brubaker runner-up Curlin Rules and San Diego (G2) runner-up Donworth also can’t be dismissed as in-the-money candidates. Dortmund figures to show speed in his first start since April but the Grade 1 winner has dropped six straight since his last victory in November 2015. Expected longshot Win the Space completes the line-up.

Paradise Woods will try to rebound as the expected favorite in the $300,000 Zenyatta (G1). A “Win & You’re In” for the $2 million Distaff (G1), the 1 1/16-mile heat drew a less-than-stellar field of six. The Richard Mandella-trained Paradise Woods posted a sensational 11-length victory in the Santa Anita Oaks (G1) earlier this season, registering a whopping 110 BRIS Speed rating, but the sophomore filly has dropped her last two outings.

The daughter of Union Rags had an excuse most recently in the August 27 Torrey Pines (G3) at Del Mar, stumbling badly out of the starting gate before spitting the bit in the stretch, and Paradise Woods will keep Flavien Prat in the saddle.

Shenandoah Queen, Faithfully and Motown Lady, the top three respective finishers in the August 25 Tranquility Lake at Del Mar, are eligible to make at least a minor impact at the graded level here. Midnight Toast and Rockport Babe, unplaced in their last two outings, round out the field.

Moonshine Memories and Piedi Bianchi, the 1-2 finishers from the September 2 Del Mar Debutante (G1), will meet once again in the $300,000 Chandelier (G1). They highlight an eight-horse cast in the Juvenile Fillies (G1) prep.

Trained by Simon Callaghan, Moonshine Memories won at first asking in mid-August and came back two weeks later to annex the Debutante in wire-to-wire fashion, holding by a half-length over her fast-closing rival. A $650,000 2-year-old in training purchase, the daughter of Spendthrift Farm stallion Malibu Moon will be ridden by Prat.

Piedi Bianchi won at second asking for Doug O’Neill, drawing away to a 1 ¼-length decision, and followed with a bang-up performance at 18-1 odds last time. By WinStar Farm’s Overanalzye, the $80,000 2-year-old has the services of Mario Gutierrez.

Just a Smidge will try to rebound after finishing fifth as the Debutante favorite. She’s one of two entrants for Baffert, who leads all conditioners with 10 Chandelier wins, and the Into Mischief filly picks up Mike Smith. Baffert also sends out Alluring Star, who rolled to a 2 ½-length front-running victory in her September 3 career debut at Del Mar. Joe Talamo will be back up.

Other runners include Debutante fourth-placer Dancing Belle and Terra’s Angel, who switches back to the main track after an upset win in the Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf.

The $300,000 Rodeo Drive (G1) features a field of 10 prospects for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) and Goodyearforroses looks like the probable favorite following runner-up finishes in the Gamely (G1) and John C. Mabee (G2). Richard Baltas trains and Corey Nakatani sticks with the 5-year-old mare.

Third in the 2016 Filly & Mare Turf, Avenge merits respect for Richard Mandella. The front-running mare opened her 5-year-old campaign with a third in the Gamely and exits a sixth as the favorite in the August 5 Yellow Ribbon (G2). Prat will guide. Decked Out, who captured the American Oaks (G1) on New Year’s Eve, is eligible to improve upon after returning from an eight-month layoff with a fifth in the Mabee.

Majestic Heat and Responsibleforlove are exiting minor stakes wins at Del Mar. Goldy Espony, a multiple Grade 3 winner in 2015, will try to turn things around in her second start for Baffert.

The $300,000 FrontRunner (G1) for 2-year-olds completes the “Win & You’re In” races.

Related: Bolt d’Oro, Zatter meet again in FrontRunner