Race Recap: Baffert Shines Again at Santa Anita Derby

Midnight Interlude Gets the Final Jump

Rounding out a wild day of Kentucky Derby Preps, California wasn’t to be excluded on upset Saturday.  Bob Baffert went deep into his barn for the Santa Anita Derby and came out with an unexpected winner, Midnight Interlude (Replay).  Along with Illinois Derby winner Joe Vann, the colt became the 2nd horse on the day to win in their first trip at graded stakes immediately following a maiden win. 

It was a roller coaster weekend for Bob Baffert that once it ended had to have felt like a pretty good ride.  A game time decision was made on Friday when Jaycito was scratched due to a right front foot bruise that didn’t heal as quickly as originally expected.  With the thought of winning looking bleak, Baffert later confirmed his surprise when watching  his untested colt put the finishing touches on a 14-1 upset win.  The win made it Baffert’s sixth all time and his second in the last 3 yrs. (PioneeroftheNile ’09)

Ridden by Victor Espinoza for the first time, the colt came into Saturday’s feature very lightly raced.  It’s not always common for a colt to sit out as a 2 yr old and begin their racing career at age 3 but it happens and generally for good reason.  Midnight Interlude got underway in January 2011 competing in a MSW at Santa Anita.  The third time proved to be the charm when on March 20th Midnight Interlude broke his maiden.  His performance that day must have really shown Baffert something, as he moved him straight from Maiden racing to Grade I Stakes.  His hunch proved to be a good one.

Setting the pace in front was 2010 Grade I Stakes winner Comma to the Top with healthy fractions of :22.81, :47.33, and 1:11.53.  Holding off the betting favorite, Silver Medallion, at the top of the stretch Jockey Corey Nakatani’s bid for a wire to wire win was beginning to look like the likely outcome.  That was until Victor Espinoza asked of his horse again at the top of the lane.  Coming into the stretch 4 wide, Midnight Interlude continued to press and turned the Santa Anita Derby into an old fashioned stretch duel.  The battle of the pink silks was incredible to watch all the way to the wire where Midnight Interlude got the final jump finishing in 1:48.66. 

Mr Commons rallied gamely along the rail to secure 3rd place over the tiring favorite Silver Medallion who held on for 4th.  Rounding out the field of nine in order of finish was Anthony’s Cross, Indian Winter, Bench Points, Quail Hill, and Offlee Wild Boys.

6 Midnight Interlude $29.80 $12.00 $6.00                                                                                    5 Comma to the Top Corey $9.20 $5.80                                                                                         3 Mr. Commons $3.60

$2.00 Exacta(6-5) $227.20 – $2.00 Trifecta(6-5-3) $1229.60

The race was Comma to the Top’s most competitive bid at a distance over a 1 1/16 Mile.  Even though it was a gutsy performance, it appears as though Trainer Peter Miller and the Owners will stick to their original plan and not move on to compete in the Kentucky Derby.  Mr. Commons showed he’s ready to compete at this level but because this was also his first Graded Stakes race, a 3rd place finish and earnings will leave him out of the field.  No confirmation has been made on Midnight Interlude’s next steps but the derby is still a possibility.  Jaycito still looks pointed towards running for the roses and is likely for the Coolmore Lexington Stakes on 4/23.

Congratulations again to Bob Baffert, who with this win also became only the 3rd trainer all time to win both the Santa Anita Derby and Santa Anita Handicap in the same year.  With Game on Dude and Midnight Interlude he becomes the first to do it since Jimmy Jones & Calumet Farms in 1953.   So, ending with a thrilling conclusion to a wild day of Kentucky Derby Preps, that’s a wrap from the West Coast.  We hope you enjoyed the trail from Cali to KY, we’ll look for you again in the Bluegrass State. 

Written  By: Little Brink

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