Classy Midnight Storm, whose affection for Del Mar’s infield Jimmy Durante Turf Course goes back to his victory in the 2014 Del Mar Derby, scored his fifth win in six starts on the seaside grass with a hard-fought triumph in the featured $200,000 G2 Del Mar Mile Sunday.
Assuming his customary position on the lead out of the gate, Midnight Storm was well-rated by jockey Rafael Bejarano, responded when challenged in the stretch by Om, the 2015 Del Mar Derby victor, to score by a half-length in 1:33.92 for the distance.
Ohio was third, 4 ¼ lengths behind the runner-up and a neck in front of fourth-place Ambitious Brew in the field of five older horses. Little Curlin was last.
Midnight Storm a five-year-old son of Pioneerof the Nile owned by Venneri and Little Red Feather Racing and trained by Phil D’Amato, was the prohibitive 1-5 favorite and returned $2.60, $2.10 and $2.10. Om, piloted by Gary Stevens, paid $3 and $2.40, while Ohio returned $2.80 to show.
Overall, Midnight Storm now has won eight of 18 career starts and first prize of $120,000 increased his earnings past the $1 million milestone, to $1,101,110. The winner carried topweight of 124, four pounds more than Om.
DEL MAR MILE QUOTES
RAFAEL BEJARANO (Midnight Storm, winner) – “I had to use him a little bit to start. I knew the 5 (Ambitious Brew) and the 1 (Om) had some speed and I didn’t want them to get a jump on me. My horse has natural speed, but I asked him for a little more to start. He’s a good horse and he showed it today.”
GARY STEVENS (Om, second) – “Heck of a good race for him off that layoff (more than five months). Dan (trainer Dan Hendricks) and his crew had him ready. I would have liked to have gotten out sooner. My horse has a really good three-eighths mile run in him and I had to wait and spot one of the best turf milers in the country a pretty good edge. But this race was big; he’ll get better off it.”
BRICE BLANC (Ohio) – “A good race for him. He’s improving each time he runs. Those first two horses in here are really good ones. But my horse is just getting better.”
PHIL D’AMATO (Midnight Storm, winner) ”I felt he had it under control the whole way, but I was kind of surprised to see that big kick Om had in the stretch and it got pretty close for a while. Raf (Rafael Bejarano) said he rode him confidently there at the end. We’ll definitely give him some time off now and then get him ready for the Breeders’ Cup Mile.”
FRACTIONS: :22.82 :46.66 1:10.64 1:22.30 1:33.92
The stakes win is the fourth of the season for rider Bejarano, but his first in the Del Mar Mile. He now has 52 stakes wins at Del Mar.
The stakes win is the fourth of the season for trainer D’Amato, but his first in the Del Mar Mile. He now has 11 stakes wins at Del Mar.
Del Mar Thoroughbred Club