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ARCADIA, Calif. (June 4, 2016)—Breaking from the far outside in a field of six, Midnight Storm pressured eastern invader Heart to Heart in the run to the Club House turn and prevailed by a half-length in an impressive gate to wire performance in Saturday’s Grade I, $400,000 Shoemaker Mile. A Breeders’ Cup ‘Win & You’re In” event, victory in the Shoe Mile assures Midnight Storm is an automatic qualifier to the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita in November.
Ridden by Rafael Bejarano and trained by Phil D’Amato, Midnight Storm took heavy pressure from the favorite around the far turn, but shook loose turning for home and withstood the late charge of Tourist, who shipped in from Churchill Downs.
“I knew Heart to Heart was going to try for the lead and if I let him get to the lead, he’d control it,” said Bejarano. “Julien (Leparoux, aboard Heart to Heart) tried to relax his horse right away. My horse is tough to control and I didn’t want to fight with him, so I let him run a little bit into the first turn. After that, I tried to get set up, tried to get him relaxed and I had a lot of horse…and he just took off.”
Well beaten in the Grade I, 1 1/8 miles Turf Classic at Churchill Downs May 7, Midnight Storm, who is owned by Alex Venneri Racing, Inc. and Little Red Feather Racing, was off at 9-2 and paid $11.20, $5.80 and $3.60.
“He had his ears up the whole time,” said a beaming D’Amato. “If he had his ears pinned back and he looked like he was going full speed, I would have been concerned. But I thought ‘Rafa’ saved a little bit at the top of the lane. It’s vindication, because I thought he should have won (the Shoe Mile) last year…
“He had been doing so well the last couple weeks coming off the layoff. He was a little bit unlucky in that he hit two softer turf courses, and he doesn’t like soft turf. He likes it firm like today and when you get that firm turf course, he’ll give you a performance like this…It went as planned.”
A 5-year-old Kentucky-bred horse by Pioneerof the Nile, Midnight Storm was bred in Kentucky by his co-owner, Alex Venneri and Marjorie Post Dye. The Shoe Mile represents his first Grade I win, and his third graded win, all on turf. He improved his overall mark to 16-6-3-0 and with the winner’s share of $240,000, increased his earnings to $831,110.
Trained by Bill Mott and ridden by Jose Lezcano, Tourist, who was a close fourth in the Turf Classic at Churchill on May 7, was hustled from the gate and sat a close third prior to overtaking Heart to Heart turning for home. The second choice in the wagering at 7-2, Tourist paid $5.00 and $2.80.
“It was a fast pace, but the horse on the lead just kept going,” said Lezcano. “The plan was to lay close. My horse ran a good race and he gave me everything he had.”
Unhurried early, Twentytwentyvision laid fourth to the three sixteenths and was third-best, finishing 2 ¾ lengths in front of Heart to Heart. Ridden by Flavien Prat, Twentytwentyvision was off at 9-2 and paid $3.00 to show.
Fractions, all set by the winner, were 22.68, 46.00, 1:09.95 and 1:21.75.
RAFAEL BEJARANO, MIDNIGHT STORM, WINNER: “I knew Heart to Heart was going to try for the lead and if I let him get to the lead, he’d control it. Julien tried to relax his horse right away. My horse is tough to control and I don’t want to fight with him, so I let him run a little bit into the first turn. After that I tried to get set up, tried to get him relaxed and I had a lot of horse. I had plenty of horse and he just took off.”
JOSE LEZCANO, TOURIST, SECOND: “It was a fast pace, but the horse on the lead just kept going. The plan was to lay close. My horse ran a good race and he gave me everything he had.”
JULIEN LEPAROUX, (FAVORED) HEART TO HEART, FOURTH: “We had a good trip, we had no excuses today. He settled nicely for me and he just didn’t have any kick left at the end, that’s it.”
PHIL D’AMATO, MIDNIGHT STORM, WINNER: “He had his ears up the whole time. If he had his ears pinned back and he looked like he was going full speed, I would have been concerned. But I thought Raffy saved a little bit (of ground) at the top of the lane. It’s vindication, because I thought he should have won it last year. He was kind of up against it, but he’s vindicated, and now he’s a Grade I winner. Onward to the Breeders’ Cup.”
“He had been training so good the last couple weeks coming off the layoff. He was a little bit unlucky in that he hit two soft turf courses, and he doesn’t like it soft. He likes it firm like today, and when you get that firm turf course, he’ll give you a performance like this. We were going to sit 1-2. If the 1 was adamant on going, we were going to sit right on him, and if he wanted to sit back, we were going to do what we did today. It went as planned.”
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