March 18, 2019

St. Joe Bay, Solid Wager dead-heat for Miller in Midnight Lute

St. Joe Bay showed the way after the start in Saturday’s $100,000 Midnight Lute (G3), establishing contested splits in :21.47 and :43.57 on a sloppy Santa Anita track, and Solid Wager trailed at the rear of the five-horse field. The pacesetter shrugged off multiple challenges by deep stretch but the rallying Solid Wager proved equal on the wire, giving trainer Peter Miller a dead-heat victory between uncoupled stablemates.

Owned by Altamira Racing Stable and David Bernsen, St. Joe Bay was off as the even-money favorite. Solid Wager was the 5-1 fourth choice for owners Gary & Cecil Barber and Stanford Stable.

The duo completed 6 ½ furlongs in 1:15.03 and it marked the first graded win for both runners.

Solid Wager was exiting a repeat victory in the November 20 Cary Grant at Del Mar and the California-bred Birdonthewire gelding, who will turn six on Sunday, has placed in four stakes. He’s now earned $469,929 from a 31-8-3-4 record. Victor Espinoza was up.

St. Joe Bay, who placed in the 2014 Bob Hope (G3), was exiting a 6 ¼-length romp over allowance/optional claiming foes. By Saint Anddan, the soon-to-be 5-year-old gelding increased his bankroll to $257,175 from a 20-4-5-3 line. Kent Desormeaux had the mount.

Midnight Lute Quotes:

Victor Espinoza, Solid Wager: “The way the track is, and the weather…I thought ‘ok I’ll get all dirty and it could be an experience’ but it’s my last race of the year so I’ll just go for it.

“He’s such a cool horse. He likes to just take his time and he tries as hard as he can down the stretch. I was only watching Kent on St. Joe Bay and no one else. His was the only horse I was concerned about getting by down the lane because everyone else looked like they were struggling.

“Sure enough, it was just between the two of us at the wire. 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?!”

Kent Desormeaux, St. Joe Bay: “This is incredible for Pete. Dead Heats are not abnormal, but what is totally unique is being in a dead heat for the same trainer. I’ve ridden 40,000 horses, and that’s only happened to me one other time. It was for Richard Mandella, maybe in 1992, in the Beverly at Hollywood Park.

“There were no losers. We had two horses on the same team in the race, and we tied.

“I had a rough trip. He leaves the gate like a Quarter Horse, and he jumped over every hoof print and all the tractor marks. I really sat down on him leaving the chute and coming on to the main track. He pitched himself well in front, and threw on the brakes. I know for certain that the other horse was lucky to tie, but it’s a good year for Pete, and sometimes things are just out of your hands.”

Peter Miller: “This is unbelievable. 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 won, then when I watched the replay I thought the three won and when they put up the “DH” I didn’t know what to do!”

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