May 29, 2023

Midnight Bisou faces Elate for a third time this season in Personal Ensign

Midnight Bisou romping in the 2019 Odgen Phipps (G1) at Belmont Park (c) O'Leary

Midnight Bisou has beaten Elate in both of their prior meetings this season, but in order to maintain her advantage in the older filly and mare division she’ll have to beat that rival a third time in Saturday’s $700,000 Personal Ensign (G1) at Saratoga, a Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re In” Challenge prep for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) in November.

Midnight Bisou’s job on Saturday will be made more challenging in two ways. The Personal Ensign is at 1 1/8 miles, a distance over which she has not yet won. Midnight Bisou must also concede four pounds to Elate under the allowance conditions of the race.

In her favor, Midnight Bisou enters unbeaten in five starts this season. Following a narrow score in the Houston Ladies Classic (G3), she out-finished Elate in both the Azeri (G2) and Apple Blossom H. (G1) at Oaklawn. Her 3 1/2-length win in the Ogden Phipps (G1) was a tour de force, and her one-length victory in the Molly Pitcher (G3) was no more taxing than it needed to be.

“She gave herself a lot do off the bench in the Ladies at Sam Houston. Since then she has been very sharp,” trainer Steve Asmussen said. “I think examples [of her adjustments] are very subtle within the individual races. It’s almost like Mike will think, ‘I want to be there,’ and she gets there without a lot of obvious visual adjustment. Those are the things you really admire, especially at this level.”

Elate rebounded from those early-season losses to take the Fleur de Lis H. (G2) at Churchill Downs and then repeated in the Delaware H. (G2), comfortably. Easy winner of the Alabama (G1) over the Saratoga strip two seasons ago, she was a neck second to Abel Tasman in last year’s Personal Ensign after some bumping involving the two rivals in deep stretch.

“She’s done well since the Delaware race and I’m very happy with her,” trainer Bill Mott said. “She put in a very good run in that race. She exploded and put in the kind of run that she’s capable of. We’ve been able to get a little racing in her this year and a little seasoning. She’s fit and ready to go, so hopefully that will carry on to the Personal Ensign.”

The Chilean-bred Wow Cat, winner of the Beldame (G1) and runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1), enters off a second to the Mott-trained Golden Award in the Shuvee (G3) on July 21 following a layoff of more than eight months.

“She got a lot out of that last race. Hopefully she’s going to move forward. She’s going to need to to run against Elate, but I really liked the way she came out of the race. Her last breeze in particular was very strong,” trainer Chad Brown said. “The key to her is the pace in front of her. She prefers some pace in front of her and to sit back a little bit and make one run.”

The Asmussen-trained She’s a Julie captured the La Troienne (G1) in May, but her relative class seemed exposed when third in the Fleur de Lis and Shuvee. Grade 2 winner Coach Rocks finished a length behind Midnight Bisou in the Molly Pitcher, but the gap perhaps would have been higher if the winner had been asked to go all out.