ARCADIA, Calif. (Dec. 31, 2016)–St. Joe Bay, ridden by Kent Desormeaux, put away longshot Tough Sunday inside the sixteenth pole and managed a dead heat with his fast finishing stablemate, Solid Wager, who was handled by Victor Espinoza, to provide trainer Peter Miller with two official wins in Saturday’s Grade III, $100,000 Midnight Lute Stakes at Santa Anita. With the main track listed as sloppy, the pair got 6 ½ furlongs in 1:15.03.
Head and head with eventual fourth place finisher Jimmy Bouncer around the far turn, St. Joe Bay repelled a stubborn challenge to his inside from Tough Sunday, but had no time for a breather, as his stablemate came at him with a furious late charge which resulted in the dead heat.
“This is unbelievable,” said Miller, who won Santa Anita’s Kalookan Queen and Eddie Logan Stakes on Friday. “Both horses ran super. Both riders rode super. I couldn’t call it and obviously, the stewards couldn’t either, so I’m just elated for everyone involved. Watching it live, I thought the two (Solid Wager) won, then when I watched the replay, I thought the three (St. Joe’s Bay) won, and when they put up the ‘DH,’ I didn’t know what to do!”
The even money favorite in a field of five 3-year-olds and up, St. Joe Bay, who is owned by Altamira Racing Stable and David Bernsen, paid $2.40, $3.00 and $2.10. A 4-year-old Florida-bred gelding by Saint Anddan, he notched his second win in a row in what was his first stakes victory. He now has four wins from 20 overall starts and with the winner’s share of $40,000, he increased his earnings to $257,175.
“There were no losers, we had two horses on the team in that race and we tied,” said Desormeaux. ”
Solid Wager, who lagged far behind the compact field headed into the turn, swung four-wide turning for home and just missed in a thrilling finish. Off at 5-1, he paid $4.60, $4.60 and $2.60.
Owned by Gary and Cecil Barber and Stanford Stable, Solid Wager, a 5-year-old California-bred gelding by Birdonthewire, followed up on a half-length win versus state-breds in the seven furlong Cary Grant Stakes Nov. 20 at Del Mar with his first graded stakes tally.
“The way the track is and the weather…I thought ‘Okay, I’ll get dirty and it could be an experience,’ but it’s my last race of the year so I’ll just go for it,” said Espinoza. “…It was awesome. When I crossed the wire I couldn’t tell but I was in front of him just a jump after. Kent thought he won right away, but I said ‘Hey, don’t be so sure.’ It’s not often this happens and to do it in a graded stakes for the same trainer?!”
Ridden by Tyler Baze, Tough Sunday finished 1 ¼ lengths behind the top pair and 6 ¼ lengths clear of fourth place finisher Jimmy Bouncer. The longest shot at 8-1, Tough Sunday paid $3.20 to show.
Fractions on the race were 21.47, 43.57 and 1:08.48.