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GRADE I SANTA ANITA DERBY WINNER MIDNIGHT INTERLUDE HEADS CAST OF 14 IN GRADE II OAK TREE DERBY WHILE TRYING TO FURTHER GRASS CAREER
ARCADIA, Calif. (Oct. 12, 2010) – Santa Anita Derby winner Midnight Interlude continues his promising career as a grass runner Saturday when heading a full field of 14 three-year-olds in Santa Anita’s Grade II, $150,000 Oak Tree Derby at 1 1/8 miles on turf.
Trained by Bob Baffert, Arnold Zetcher’s homebred son of War Chant is coming off an ultra-game effort in the Grade II Del Mar Derby on Sept. 4 when a nose bob at the wire gave the nod to Glen Hill Farm’s Banned following a stretch-long duel.
Rafael Bejarano will be back aboard the bay colt who has run well in three turf competitions after failing to be a factor in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes earlier this year.
Bejarano joined Midnight Interlude in his grass debut, a victory in Hollywood Park’s Tsunami Slew Stakes on June 17. They were beaten by 1¼ lengths when a troubled fourth in Del Mar’s Grade II La Jolla Handicap won by Burns on Aug. 13. Next came the narrow defeat after setting the Del Mar Derby pace.
“I was blocked in the stretch in the La Jolla,” recalled Bejarano. “The horse can run either way, on the lead or from just off the pace. He’s good either way. He’s shown a big heart in the stretch.”
Midnight Interlude will take earnings of $751,910 into the Oak Tree Derby from a record of 3-2-1 in nine starts. Should the probable favorite fail on Saturday, solace can be taken in the race’s history. John Henry finished third in the 1978 Oak Tree Derby; Cigar ran second in 1993.
This year’s primary “stranger danger” would appear to be French import Venomous. Set to make his United States debut with Joel Rosario in the saddle, Venomous came within two lengths of capturing a pair of Group I events in France this spring and summer.
Trained by Tony Clout for Magalen O. Bryant, the British-bred son of Red Ransom has posted a 2-0-5 record in 11 starts, all in France, for earnings of $173,531. Following the Oak Tree Derby, Venomous will be transferred to the local stable of Leonard Powell.
Cloud Man, trained by John Shirreffs for Jerry and Ann Moss, rates consideration on Saturday. He was beaten by only one length in the Del Mar Derby while rallying for fourth. He lost by a nose to Burns in an allowance event at Hollywood Park in June.
The homebred offspring of 1995 Kentucky Derby winner Thunder Gulch will be ridden by Mike Smith. Cloud Man owns a record of 2-2-1 in six starts. He has earned $133,440.
The remainder of the bountiful field includes Grade II Swaps Stakes winner Dreamy Kid, a competitive sixth in the Del Mar Derby; Lil Bit O’Fun, who missed by a neck to Burns when second in the La Jolla Handicap; newcomer Northern Causeway, fresh off a victory in the Group III British Columbia Derby at Hastings Park, and Thirtyfirststreet, who won the $200,000 Lone Star Derby in May.
The complete field for the Oak Tree Derby, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Great Warrior, Omar Berrio, 118; Northern Causeway, William Antongeorgio III, 122; Venomous, Joel Rosario, 118; Arraignment, Daniel Vergara, 118; Dreamy Kid, Martin Garcia, 122; Thirtyfirststreet, Patrick Valenzuela, 120; Lil Bit O’Fun, David Flores, 120; Ultimate Eagle, Martin Pedroza, 118; Akkadian, Brice Blanc, 118; Theresmyeverything, Aaron Gryder, 118; Cozy Kitten, Alonso Quinonez, 118; Cloud Man, Mike Smith, 118; Midnight Interlude, Rafael Bejarano, 122, and Surrey Star, Chantal Sutherland, 120.
The Oak Tree Derby is carded as the ninth race on a program of ten races with first post at 1 p.m.