Cupid’s Music Pointing towards Martha Washington

Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates

Contact: Jennifer Hoyt, or (501) 363-4305

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Cupid’s Music Pointing towards Martha Washington

Danele Durham bred, owns and trains Cupid’s Music, who is pointing for the $200,000 Martha Washington Stakes for 3-year-old fillies Jan. 29 at Oaklawn.

The hope, Durham said, is the Texas-bred can follow in her father’s footsteps.

Cupid’s Music is from the first crop of millionaire Grade 1 winner Cupid, a gray son of Tapit who, fresh off a Santa Anita maiden victory, captured the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) at 1 1/16 miles in 2016 at Oaklawn for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.

Barring a change in plans, Cupid’s Music will enter the 1-mile Martha Washington, Oaklawn’s first of three Kentucky Oaks points races, off an Oct. 20 maiden special weights victory at Remington Park. The mile race marked her two-turn debut and fifth start overall.

“You know me, when I own them, I don’t mind giving them a race,” Durham said as she watched Cupid’s Music train Tuesday morning at Oaklawn. “I don’t have to explain it to anybody. Until we went a mile, it wasn’t where she needed to be. When we ran her a mile, her breeding came out. The farther they went, the stronger she got. I mean, she reminded so much of her dad.”

Cupid’s Music is also gray and white splotches on her coat resemble a dyed Easter egg, Durham said, adding, “she’s just gorgeous.”

Cupid’s Music returned to the work tab Friday morning at Oaklawn, covering a half-mile in :49.60 just after the first surface renovation break under Kelsi Harr. The track was fast.

Cupid’s Music is out of Soft Music, who Durham purchased for only $1,700 at the 2015 Heritage Place Thoroughbred Mixed Sale. Soft Music has already produced multiple stakes winner Bling On the Music, who also finished third in the $200,000 Pocahontas Stakes (G2) for 2-year-old fillies in 2016 at Churchill Downs, and stakes-placed full-brother Lullaby Bling, another Durham homebred. Bling On the Music and Lullaby Bling are by Too Much Bling.

But watching the 2016 Rebel near the finish line, Durham and her daughter Caroline, then 16, quickly decided to go in another (matchmaking) direction after Cupid captured the major Kentucky Derby prep. Soft Music, they agreed, would eventually go to Cupid, who now stands at Coolmore America’s Ashford Stud in Kentucky.

“I love him,” Danele Durham said. “I have 10,000 pictures of him on my phone and Caroline went back to the barn afterwards. We loved him. When he won that day, Caroline goes: ‘Mama, can we please breed Soft Music to Cupid when he retires?’ So, the mating was decided. I said, ‘Of course.’ When he retired, the mare went to be bred to him. That was always the plan. The resulting foal is just really nice.”

Cupid’s Music was among 16 North American winners from Cupid’s first crop through Thursday, a figure that was tied for seventh for freshman sires. After Cupid’s Music broke her maiden by three lengths at 37-1, Durham said Coolmore contacted her regarding breeding plans for Soft Music in 2022. Durham said her initial thought was going to Caravaggio, a multiple Group 1-winning son of Scat Daddy who had relocated from Coolmore’s Ireland operation to Ashford in late 2020.

“They said they liked her so much under Cupid, because the foal is so nice, that I should really go back to him,” Durham said. “She’s booked back to him. That’s pretty much a compliment, when Coolmore calls and says we would like your mare to come back to our stallion. I was pretty happy.”

The Martha Washington will offer 17 points (10-4-2-1) to the top four finishers toward starting eligibility for the Kentucky Oaks (G1) May 6 at Churchill Downs. The 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Oaks is the country’s biggest race for 3-year-old fillies. Oaklawn’s Kentucky Oaks series continues with the $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) Feb. 26 and the $600,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) April 2. Both races are 1 1/16 miles.

“That’s definitely my plan for her, unless she tells me otherwise,” Durham said of the Martha Washington.

Purchased for $900,000 at the 2014 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Cupid’s biggest career victory came at 1 ¼ miles in the $500,000 Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes (G1) in 2017 at Santa Anita. His stud fee in 2022 is $5,000.

Nearing a Milestone

Alex Canchari’s chase to a career milestone will apparently come at Oaklawn.

Canchari said that he plans to ride the entire Oaklawn meet (Dec. 3-May 8) in pursuit of his 1,000th career victory. Canchari has 981 career victories, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization, including 198 at Oaklawn.

“I’m just going to try to work hard and hopefully have a good meet,” Canchari said during training hours Friday morning at Oaklawn. “I’ll try to ride a little bit for everybody.”

Canchari, 27, said he arrived Thursday in Hot Springs after riding the past month at Mahoning Valley in Ohio. Despite missing the first month of the 2021 Oaklawn meeting – the jockey was riding at Turfway Park – Canchari amassed $621,716 in purse earnings, the bulk coming from victories aboard Carlos L. in the $150,000 Temperence Hill Stakes for older horses at 1 ½ miles and aboard Sir Wellington in the $150,000 Gazebo Stakes for 3-year-old sprinters. Both victories were for Canchari’s longtime client, trainer Mac Robertson.

Canchari has ridden regularly at Oaklawn since 2012 and set a single-season personal best in Hot Springs with 45 victories in 2017, when he tied for third in the standings. Canchari has nine stakes victories and $8,370,423 in purse earnings in his Oaklawn career.

Green Looking to Build on 2021 Success

Trainer Aidan Green is back at Oaklawn to try and build on a breakout 2021 meeting, when her modest stable produced 9 victories, 7 seconds and 9 thirds from 42 starters and amassed $347,560 in purse earnings.

Green’s 2021 Oaklawn meet highlights included her first career victory recognized by Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization, and first career stakes victory when Blame J D captured the $150,000 Rainbow for 3-year-old Arkansas-bred sprinters in the waning days of the live season.

“Kicked back a little after that, but not too much,” said Green, who is raising three small children near Oaklawn with her husband/assistant, Ike. “Breaking babies and we’ve got broodmares and everything. Got rid of some horses. So, I’ll sit around 10 or 12, just like always. I’ve been dropping like crazy at Churchill. I’ve got owners wanting to get horses, and new guys coming in, and we just keep getting outshook every time.”

Green said trying to claim horses at Churchill Downs has been fueled, in part, because of her success last season at Oaklawn, adding she’s picked up a handful of new owners in advance of opening day, Dec. 3, including Dennis Pohl of St. Louis.

“I’ve gotten some new people since then, and people that want in, so that’s exciting,” Green said. “Dennis has had horses with other trainers. He called and said he wanted someone with a smaller stable, where they get real attention. We’ve been trying to get some claimed for him.”

Green’s best horse to date, Blame J D, was turned out following the 2021 Oaklawn meeting (five starts, including a state-bred maiden special weights sprint) and just resumed preparing for a 2022 campaign, Ike Green said.

The Greens formerly worked as assistants under 2020 Oaklawn training champion Robertino Diodoro. Aidan Green’s first official starter recognized by Equibase was Feb. 14, 2020, at Oaklawn. Ike Green has 98 career training victories, the last coming in 2014, according to Equibase. All nine of Aidan Green’s career victories recognized by Equibase have come at Oaklawn.

Tempting Fate

Tempt Fate, the winningest horse of the 2021 Oaklawn meeting, is scheduled to be active again during the 2021-2022 live season that begins Dec. 3, owner Jerry Caroom of Hot Springs said.

A 4-year-old Arkansas-bred son of Hamazing Destiny, Tempt Fate was 4 for 4 last season at Oaklawn (all against state-breds), including the $150,000 Nodouble Breeders’ Stakes and $200,000 Arkansas Breeders’ Championship Stakes in his two-turn debut.

The speedy Tempt Fate has raced just twice since the April 30 Arkansas Breeders’ Championship, finishing sixth in the $100,000 off-the-turf Chamberlain Bridge Stakes May 31 at Lone Star Park and fifth in his allowance comeback sprint Nov. 10 at Delta Downs.

“Just tuning him back up,” said Caroom, who was Oaklawn’s co-fourth-leading owner last season with 10 victories. “Almost exactly the program we did last year. He loves this track.”

Caroom said Tempt Fate will again target Oaklawn’s lucrative program for Arkansas-breds. He won two allowance races last season before dipping, successfully, into stakes waters.

“Why screw up that?” Caroom said. “I hope we’ll see him four times. Four wins, hopefully. His mission is to go 4-0 this year. Hoonani Road went 7-0 at this track. I want this one to do eight.”

Hoonani Road, also campaigned by Caroom, won his first seven Oaklawn starts (all against state-breds), including the $100,000 Rainbow Stakes in 2018 and the Nodouble and Arkansas Breeders’ Championship in 2019. Tempt Fate ran third in the 2020 Rainbow before dominating state-bred foes in 2021.

Trainer Carl Deville, on behalf of Caroom, had claimed Tempt Fate for $40,000 out of a third-place finish in his second career start, Feb. 14, 2020, at Oaklawn.

After losing Hoonani Road to a $25,000 claim in August 2020 at Ellis Park, Caroom privately purchased him shortly before the 2021 Arkansas Breeders’ Championship and retired the 6-year-old gelding to a farm near Opelousas, La., where Deville’s grandchildren reside.

Caroom said he could have as many as 20 horses stabled at Oaklawn in 2021-2022, mostly with Deville. Caroom could eventually have a Kentucky Oaks prospect on the grounds in Pipeline Girl, a Tom Amoss trainee who won her career debut sprinting in June at Churchill Downs before finishing 11th in the $400,000 Alcibiades Stakes (G1) Oct. 8 at Keeneland in her two-turn debut. Pipeline Girl returned to finish third in a Nov. 13 allowance sprint at Churchill Downs.

“In the Alcibiades, she just completely laid an egg,” Caroom said. “The route messed her up a little bit. My strong desire is to have her here, but if she turns out that she’s more suitable for the grass, then she’ll stay with Amoss at Fair Grounds.”

Caroom purchased Pipeline Girl, a daughter Air Force Blue, a multiple Group 1 winner in Europe, for $100,000 at the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

Finish Lines

Horses for 2021 Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox are on the grounds training at Oaklawn. Cox was Oaklawn’s third-leading trainer at the 2021 meeting with 29 victories. … Another recent arrival is trainer John Ortiz, who was Oaklawn’s seventh-leading trainer at the 2021 meeting with 15 victories. Oaklawn opened for training Monday morning. … Hall of Fame trainer and perennial Oaklawn leader Steve Asmussen turned 56 Thursday. Asmussen has a record-tying 11 Oaklawn training titles and his 755 career victories rank No. 2 all time in Hot Springs. Multiple stakes-winning sprinter Joy’s Rocket, runner-up in the $250,000 Raven Run Stakes (G2) for Asmussen Oct. 23 at Keeneland, has been training at Oaklawn in advance of the 2021-2022 meeting that begins Dec. 3. … Post positions for the opening-day card will be drawn Nov. 27. … Eight-time Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr. turned 29 Friday. … Early bird nominations to Oaklawn’s four Kentucky Derby points races – $250,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 1, $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Jan. 29, $1 million Rebel Stakes (G2) Feb. 26 and $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 2 – close Dec. 17. The nomination fee is $750.