ARCADIA, Calif. (Dec. 27, 2014)–With heavily favored Secret Circle nowhere to be found, Distinctiv Passion rocketed to the front from his outside post and never looked back to win Saturday’s Grade III, $100,000 Midnight Lute Stakes by 1 ¾ lengths under Mike Smith, getting 6 ½ furlongs in 1:14.55.

Head and head early with Heir of Storm, the Jeff Bonde-conditioned Distinctiv Passion shook loose leaving the three furlong pole and was never threatened thereafter.

“The way to keep him going turning for home is to get along with him on the backside,” said Smith. “If you can’t do that, they won’t finish for you. I wanted to keep him happy and I was in a great post to do that.

“Believe it or not, they went in forty two (42.99 for the half mile), but he rated. Rating doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to go slow. He’s got a high cruising speed. I got him comfortable and he was happy going that fast. He had his ears up–I thought we were going in twenty four…I was running on fumes by the end but you’re supposed to when you go that fast.”

Off at 6-1, in a field of seven older horses, the 4-year-old Florida-bred colt by With Distinction sailed through fractions of 21.23, 42.99 and 1:07.61. Winning for the sixth time in 13th starts, he paid $15.60, $9.00 and $10.00. Owned by Edward J. Brown, Jr., Alan Klein and Phillip Lebherz, Distinctiv Passion picked up $60,000 for the win and increased his earnings to $336,180.

“I was happy he drew outside,” said Bonde. “Historically, I’ve never trained a horse that’s quicker up the backside. He wants to lock on the bridle like and alligator, and over the last six months in the mornings, he started to relax and then kick and run late.

Breaking from the rail with Gary Stevens, Heir of Storm ran gamely for the place, prevailing by a nose over late closing Appealing Tale. Off at 28-1, Heir of Storm paid $22.20 and $22.40.

“He’s a pure pro,” said Stevens. “Every time he gets led over, he loves the game. He’s the ultimate professional. He didn’t get away real clean today, he kind of over-broke. He rated kind for me, just off the winner and he tries his guts out. He’s fun to ride.”

Off at 31-1, Appealing Tale, who was ridden by Victor Espinoza, finished a length in front of Secret Circle and paid $22.40 to show.

For his part, Secret Circle, a winner of the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Sprint who came off second place finishes in this year’s Breeders’ Breeders’ Cup Sprint Nov. 1, and the Grade I Cigar Mile on Nov. 29, had no apparent excuses.

“They were going pretty fast up there and we tried to make up ground, but we just couldn’t,” said jockey Martin Garcia. “It just wasn’t his day.”