Rafael Bejarano celebrates aboard Midnight Storm after capturing the Shoemaker Mile
A. Venneri Racing and Little Red Feather Racing’s Midnight Storm was second in last year’s running of the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile, but took control right out of the gate this year to earn a half-length victory. A 5-year-old son of Pioneerof the Nile, Midnight Storm covered a mile over the firm turf at Santa Anita in 1:33.55 for trainer Phil D’Amato.
“He had his ears up the whole time,” said 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 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.”
Breaking from outside the six-horse field, Rafael Bejarano guided Midnight Storm to the lead, out-legging the speedy Heart to Heart and making his way to the rail by the first turn. Through a quarter mile in :22.68, Midnight Storm earned a single length’s lead over Heart to Heart, with Tourist settling well in third another length and a half off the pace. Midnight Storm stayed strong through a half in :46.00, rolling toward the final turn with a solid advantage.
Heart to Heart angled out to mount a challenge to the leader, along with Tourist on his outside. Midnight Storm had something left at the top of the lane, dueling with Tourist toward the wire as Heart to Heart dropped back. Midnight Storm refused to be denied, crossing the wire a half-length in front of Tourist to earn his first Grade 1 victory. Twentytwentyvision was up for third, and Heart to Heart held fourth.
“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 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.”
Bred in Kentucky by Alex Venneri and Marjorie Post Dye, Midnight Storm is out of a daughter of Bertrando. He improved his record to six wins from 16 lifetime starts, with earnings of $ 830,000.
“We had a good trip, we had no excuses today,” said Julien Leparoux, who rode the favored Heart to Heart, finishing fourth. “He settled nicely for me and he just didn’t have any kick left at the end, that’s it.”
Watch the race replay here:
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