February 22, 2024

Midnight Bisou denies Elate in Personal Ensign

Elate (inside) exits a nose second to Midnight Bisou in the Personal Ensign Stakes (G1) at Saratoga on Saturday, August 24, 2019 (c) Chelsea Durand/Adam Coglianese Photography

The streaking Midnight Bisou confirmed her status as the nation’s top older dirt female in Saturday’s $651,000 Personal Ensign (G1) at Saratoga. Rallying from last under Hall of Famer Mike Smith, the Steve Asmussen filly nipped 4-5 favorite Elate in a thriller. Elate was suffering a heartbreaker in this “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) for the second straight year, having been outmuscled by champion Abel Tasman here last summer.

Although Midnight Bisou had beaten Elate twice already this campaign, she went off as the 8-5 second choice for a few reasons. Both of those head-to-head victories had come in the spring at Oaklawn, and at Midnight Bisou’s optimal distance of 1 1/16 miles. Elate had returned to peak form over the summer, and the distance and venue changes to 1 1/8 miles at Saratoga figured to play to her strengths. Moreover, Midnight Bisou had to concede the bigger mare four pounds while seeking her first win at a distance that historically has stretched her.

The four-year-old version of Midnight Bisou, however, handled the extra half-furlong just fine. In fact, she used every yard of it to get past Elate.

The 37-1 longest shot on the board, Coach Rocks, made her early play by rattling off fractions of :23.46, :47.88, and 1:11.58 on the fast track. Elate was perched in a midpack third, tracking Midnight Bisou’s stablemate She’s a Julie, until launching her bid rounding the far turn. Midnight Bisou, hitherto content to bring up the rear, herself began to pick up for Smith at the same point.

As Elate took command, Midnight Bisou was in hot pursuit, and the match race was on at the top of the stretch. Elate’s proven stamina might have been thought to give her an edge, but Midnight Bisou was relentless as she forced her nose in front.

Stopping the clock in 1:47.92, Midnight Bisou remained a perfect 6-0 for the year. The daughter of Midnight Lute was gilding the lily as far as her Breeders’ Cup Distaff eligibility is concerned, since she’d earned her spot in the Ogden Phipps (G1) on Belmont Day.

Elate lost no caste in defeat, pulling 8 3/4 lengths clear of She’s a Julie. Her connections might be even more inclined to give the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) a whirl, considering her proficiency at 1 1/4 miles in a year lacking an older male standout.

Wow Cat was a non-threatening fourth, and Coach Rocks faded to last of those who finished. Golden Award was pulled up but walked off, according to the chart.

Campaigned by Bloom Racing Stable, Madaket Stables, and Allen Racing, Midnight Bisou now brandishes a record of 17-11-3-3 and a bankroll to the tune of $3,245,000. The $80,000 OBS April purchase began her career for Bill Spawr, missing to Dream Tree in both their mutual debut and the Desi Arnaz before breaking her maiden in the 2018 Santa Ynez (G2). Midnight Bisou romped in the Santa Ysabel (G3) and Santa Anita Oaks (G1), but could manage only third as the favorite behind Monomoy Girl in the Kentucky Oaks (G1).

In her first start for Hall of Famer Asmussen, Midnight Bisou crushed the Mother Goose (G2). Stretching out at Saratoga, she had to settle for second to Monomoy Girl in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1), and wound up third in the Alabama (G1). Reverting to 1 1/16 miles in the Cotillion (G1) evened the playing field with Monomoy Girl, although Midnight Bisou had to prevail in the stewards’ room when her nemesis was demoted for interference. Monomoy Girl reasserted herself in their last meeting in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, with Midnight Bisou placing third.

The Personal Ensign marked Midnight Bisou’s first attempt at the nine-furlong distance since the Distaff. She’d been burnishing her resume at 1 1/16 miles throughout 2019, from the Houston Ladies Classic (G3) in January and Oaklawn’s Azeri (G2)/Apple Blossom (G1) double, to the Ogden Phipps and most recently the Molly Pitcher (G3) on Haskell Day.

With the 1 1/8-mile question now affirmatively answered, Midnight Bisou has filled in the one gap in her resume going into the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Santa Anita.

Quotes from NYRA

Winning rider Mike Smith: “The mare ran a tremendous race. It was a fight to get by Elate, who is a champion in her own right. With the extra four pounds there it took me a bit to get going, but once I got her going I was really happy that she handled the mile-and-an-eighth. I thought I got there at the wire, but there have been times before when I thought I did and didn’t. You don’t know the bob exactly, but I felt like I got it anyway. I’m happy to know that I did.”

Winning trainer Steve Asmussen: “Two great mares hooked up at Saratoga in a Grade 1. A beautiful day, a beautiful setting, and two great mares.

“The filly didn’t run her best races here last summer and she came into this one in great form. And for her to win here at Saratoga against Elate in the Personal Ensign, at a mile-and-an-eighth…check marks. I have a ton of respect for the effort she gave today. We’ll evaluate how she’s doing. I do think she is the leader of the division.”