Showing exceptional tenacity, Midnight Storm, the 8-5 favorite and 124-pound highweight, fought off multiple challenges in the stretch under jockey Rafael Bejarano to win the featured Grade II $250,000 Eddie Read Stakes Sunday at Del Mar.
Scoring his fourth victory in five starts at the seaside oval, Midnight Storm took command from the gate, was beautifully rated by Bejarano on a moderate pace and battled back when threatened through the stretch to win by a half-length in 1:47.88 for the nine furlongs on the infield Jimmy Durante Turf Course.
Ashleyluvssugar, ridden by Gary Stevens, closed stoutly to be second, a neck in front of Flamboyant, with Si Sage another head removed in fourth place in an exciting blanket finish. Nine horses went postward.
Midnight Storm, a five-year-old son of Pioneerof the Nile owned by Alex Venneri and Little Red Feather Racing and trained by Phil D’Amato, won the Del Mar Derby as a three-year-old and took the Seabiscuit Handicap last fall at Del Mar. He won the Grade I Shoemaker Mile June 4 at Santa Anita.
Midnight Storm returned $5.40, $3.40 and $2.60 after scoring his seven win in 17 career starts. First money of $150,000 boosted his bankroll to almost $1 million at $981,110.
Runner-up Ashleyluvssugar paid $5.60 and $3.40, while Flamboyant paid $3.40 to show.
Although narrowly beaten in the Eddie Read Stakes, the day wasn’t a loss for Stevens who took the program’s supporting feature, the $85,425 Sandy Blue Handicap, astride a 10-l longshot, the Irish-bred Barleysugar who was making her American debut.
Barleysugar scored by almost three-lengths over 3-2 favored Cheekaboo, with Mrs. Norris third in a field of ten three-year-old fillies. Time for the nine furlongs on grass was 1:48.70 and the winner returned $22.20.
There was a single perfect ticket in the Pick Six and it was worth $149,123.
Sunday’s attendance totaled 18,773.
Racing resumes Wednesday at Del Mar with the first race scheduled for 2 p.m.
PHIL D’AMATO (Midnight Storm, winner) –“Raf (jockey Rafael Bejarano) saved just enough. Bolo was all over him, he wasn’t getting any easy breathers. The reason I ran him in here is he came out of the last race (Shoemaker Mile win) like he hadn’t even run. His confidence is just sky high right now. When he gets good he gets really good and he’s just coming into his own. If he comes out of this race like he came out of his last one, maybe the Del Mar Mile (Grade II, $200,000, August 21), but we’ll see what he tells us.”
FRACTIONS: :23.82 :48.03 1:12.18 1:36.21 1:47.88
The stakes win was the first of the meet for rider Bejarano, but his third in the Read. He now has 49 stakes wins at Del Mar.
The stakes win was the first of the meet for conditioner D’Amato and his first in the Eddie Read. He now has eight stakes wins at Del Mar with three of them coming with Midnight Storm (’14 Del Mar Derby and ’15 Seabiscuit Handicap).
Del Mar Thoroughbred Club