Midnight Bisou, a perfect five-for-five at this 1 1/16-mile trip after the January 27 Houston Ladies Classic (G3), was sent off as the 6-5 second choice. Elate, the even-money favorite, had not raced since her near-miss to Abel Tasman in the August 25 Personal Ensign (G1). While ring-rustiness may have been a factor, Elate’s proficiency over further also told as Midnight Bisou had sharper gears.
Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen and ridden by fellow inductee Mike Smith, Midnight Bisou was pocketed behind front-running Tapa Tapa Tapa through splits of :24.51 and :48.81 on the fast track. Shamrock Rose, the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) champion stretching back out for the first time since last September, accosted the leader at the six-furlong mark in 1:12.84 and forged clear. But Smith found room for Midnight Bisou in midstretch, and the Midnight Lute filly quickened well to prevail by a length.
Elate, who attended the pace on the outside, loomed turning for home before hitting a flat spot, and then stayed on again to take second. Shamrock Rose checked in another length back in third, followed by Tapa Tapa Tapa and the ever-trailing Eskimo Kisses. Longshot Summer Indy was scratched in favor of a softer spot in Sunday’s 6TH race.
Midnight Bisou clocked 1:42.72 to capture this prep for the April 14 Apple Blossom (G1), advancing her scorecard to 13-7-3-3, $1,955,000.
“It’s all Midnight Bisou,” Asmussen said. “She’s a very special mare. She’s been training incredibly well all winter. Scott (Blasi) has had her in New Orleans and Angel (Garcia) has been getting on her. She’s been spot on and looked beautiful. I thought she proved her quality today. Today’s Azeri had four Grade 1 winners in it and for her to come out on top is very special.”
Midnight Bisou was one of them. Bloom Racing Stable, Madaket Stables, and Allen Racing’s runner also boasts wins in last season’s Cotillion (G1) (via disqualification over champion Monomoy Girl), Santa Anita Oaks (G1), Mother Goose (G2), Santa Ynez (G2), and Santa Ysabel (G3). The dark bay has placed in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1), Kentucky Oaks (G1), Coaching Club Oaks (G1), Alabama (G1), and Desi Arnaz.
The Apple Blossom is the next logical spot on the itinerary, where Midnight Bisou might renew rivalry with a returning Monomoy Girl.
“I’ll have to talk to (owner) Jeff (Bloom) and see how she comes out of the race, but that would be the plan,” her trainer said.
Asmussen, whose Long Range Toddy later upset Improbable in the first division of the Rebel (G2), nearly made it a stakes treble in the Essex Handicap. His Snapper Sinclair, himself a Bloom Racing colorbearer, fought on gamely down the length of the stretch only to be nipped by the 14-1 Rated R Superstar.
Claimed for $62,500 from trainer Ken McPeek’s barn at Churchill Downs in November, Rated R Superstar now races for Crystal Racing Enterprises and Contreras Stable. The Cipriano Contreras trainee was coming off a hampered third to Coal Front and Copper Bullet in the February 18 Razorback H. (G3). Rated R Superstar had clear sailing here, with new rider Walter De La Cruz, to add another major win to his victories in the 2018 Ben Ali (G3) and 2016 Carry Back (G3).