ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 1, 2017)–With the mighty Arrogate declared from the race earlier in the day, trainer Phil D’Amato’s Midnight Storm assumed the mantle of heavily backed favorite and he didn’t disappoint, taking Sunday’s Grade II, $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes by 1 ¼ lengths under Rafael Bejarano while getting a mile and a sixteenth in 1:40.65 over Santa Anita’s wet fast main track.
Breaking from the outside in a field of four older horses, Midnight Storm went to the lead as expected, but was immediately engaged by eventual third place finisher Dalmore, who although he was never able to draw even with him, pressed the winner through splits of 23.02, 45.59, 1:08.93 and 1:33.98.
“I knew I had to put my horse on the lead,” said Bejarano. “I needed a good start and when I put him on the lead, I felt the pressure right away. Dalmore was right next to me, chasing me the whole way. I kept him on the lead but tried to give him a breather at the half mile pole. At the three eighths I knew he would keep running. He loves to be on the lead and he always gives me something else.”
A Grade I stakes winner on turf, Midnight Storm came off a rousing 7 ¾ length win on dirt in the Grade III Native Diver Stakes at Del Mar on Nov. 27 and was thus dispatched as the 3-5 favorite today. With no show wagering, he paid $3.20 and $2.10.
“I thought he’d love the surface,” said D’Amato. “They were going fast. I saw 45 and 1:08 and change and he dug in there gamely and held them off today. We were going to the lead, whether Arrogate was in or not…We thought Accelerate would be the one pressing us, not Dalmore, but it still worked out and he maintained through some grueling fractions and he showed his class in the stretch.”
Owned by A Venneri Racing, Inc. and Little Red Feather Racing, Midnight Storm, a 6-year-old horse by Pioneerof the Nile, notched his 10th win from 21 starts and with the winner’s share of $120,000, increased his earnings to $1,461,110.
Last after the first half mile, Accelerate, who was ridden by Tyler Baze, flew late for second money, finishing 2 ½ lengths in front of Dalmore. Off at 7-2, Accelerate paid $3.00 to place.
“He’s going to be a super horse, I really mean that,” said Baze. “I think John’s going to try blinkers next time and we’ll try to get him into the race a little sooner. He’s going to be a special horse.”
Santa Anita will be open for special holiday racing on Monday, with first post time for a nine-race card at 12:30 p.m. Admission gates open at 10:30 a.m.