Trainer Danele Durham’s most successful horse, Texas Bling, rocked the toteboard at 128-1 odds in the 2012 Springboard Mile at Remington Park and ran in four Oaklawn stakes as a 3-year-old, placing second in the Smarty Jones.
Coming off a 1-for-19 Oaklawn season, Durham has high hopes for a filly from the first crop of a local stakes winner.
The Texan bred, owns and trains Texas-bred Cupid’s Music, pointing for the $200,000 Martha Washington Stakes Jan. 29. Sire Cupid won the Grade 2 $900,000 Rebel at Oaklawn in 2016 for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.
Cupid’s Music tipped her hand with a maiden-special-weights victory Oct. 20 at Remington Park. The mile race marked her two-turn debut and fifth start overall. The Martha Washington, won this year by Willis Horton’s homebred Will’s Secret, is the same distance.
“You know me, when I own them, I don’t mind giving them a race,” Durham said during training hours 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 (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Action This Day sired dam Soft Music). The farther they went, the stronger she got. I mean, she reminded so much of her dad.”
Cupid’s Rebel victory came at the expense of future Oaklawn immortal and Eclipse Award-winning sprinter Whitmore. A $900,000 Keeneland yearling purchase, Cupid scored his biggest career victory in the 2017 Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita.
Durham made immediate plans, she said, to breed Soft Magic, a $1,700 yearling sales purchase in 2015, to Cupid. Soft Music has produced multiple stakes winner and Grade 3-placed filly Bling On the Music and stakes-placed full-brother Lullaby Bling, a Durham homebred.
Durham said she began an immediate love affair with Cupid, who has a $5,000 stud fee for 2022 at Coolmore America’s Ashford Stud in Kentucky.
“I have 10,000 pictures of him on my phone and (daughter) Caroline went back to the barn afterwards,” she said. “We loved him. When he won that day, Caroline goes: ‘Mama, can we please breed Soft Music to Cupid when she retires?’ So, the mating was decided. I said, ‘Of course.’ When he retired, the mare went to be to him. That was always the plan. The resulting foal is just really nice.”
With 16 North American winners through Thursday, Cupid tied for seventh among freshman sires. Soft Magic goes back to Cupid, Durham said, after Coolmore contacted her off a three-length maiden victory by Cupid’s Music at 37-1.
The Martha Washington offers 17 points (10-4-2-1) to the top four finishers toward a starting spot in the May 6 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs. Other local Oaks prep are the Grade 3 $300,000 Honeybee Feb. 26 and the Grade 3 $600,000 Fantasy 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.