May 26, 2024

Lieutenant Dan charges up rail to Green Flash repeat; Midnight over Dawn in Torrey Pines

Lieutenant Dan wins the Green Flash H. again (Photo © Benoit Photo)

After waiting 10 months to return to action in Sunday’s $152,500 Green Flash H. (G3), Lieutenant Dan then had to wait a bit longer for room on the far turn at Del Mar. But patience was indeed rewarded. A gap opened on the inside for the defending champion and 9-10 favorite, who blasted through to win a free passage to the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1).

Nick Alexander’s homebred was last seen in the 2021 Turf Sprint at this course and distance, where his three-race winning streak ended with a second to Golden Pal. Lieutenant Dan is likely to get a Breeders’ Cup rematch on Nov. 5, only at Golden Pal’s home court of Keeneland.

Trained by Steve Miyadi and ridden for the first time by Juan Hernandez, Lieutenant Dan was tucked just behind pacesetting Dubai Key through an opening quarter in :21.77. Maven, chasing on the outside, had the favorite covered up. Hernandez appeared to tap the brakes briefly rounding the turn, but the hold-up was short-lived. Dubai Key came out as they fanned into the stretch, and Lieutenant Dan’s response was instantaneous. The Cal-bred drove 1 1/4 lengths clear while finishing five firm-turf furlongs in :55.87.

Lane Way had a rougher time rallying in his wake, ultimately getting up for second by a head from Coulthard, who closed wider out. Dubai Key was swamped late in fourth, trailed by Whatmakessammyrun, Chasin Munny, Super Ocho, Barristan the Bold, Nero, and Maven. Yes He Can was withdrawn.

“He’s not as quick as last year,” Miyadi said of Lieutenant Dan, who was on the engine in the 2021 Green Flash, “but he has a new rider and that’s Juan’s nature. If he sees a speed duel developing he likes to wait. He got to the inside and we were lucky it opened up. It wasn’t at all like we thought, but he switched leads on cue and kept going.”

“He’s a really nice horse,” Hernandez said. “He broke really well, and I didn’t bother him because he took me there, and I saw a couple horses with more speed than me, so I just sat behind them and waited inside. When we turned the corner, there was a little space for me and we go there. He has a really nice kick inside, really professional. I shook the reins a little bit and he picked it up.”

Lieutenant Dan has compiled a mark of 18-9-4-4, $923,740. In addition to his back-to-back Green Flash trophies, the six-year-old has captured the 2021 Eddie D. (G2) and a trio of Cal-restricted stakes.

By another Alexander homebred, Grazen, Lieutenant Dan was produced by Excusabull, a non-black-type stakes winner by Indian Charlie.

Torrey Pines (G3)

Earlier on the main track, Midnight Memories wired the $125,500 Torrey Pines (G3) in her stakes and two-turn debut, repelling 6-5 favorite Desert Dawn.

The Bob Baffert filly arguably capitalized on the slow start of her more accomplished stablemate Under the Stars, who never recovered in a well-beaten fifth. Instead of having to deal with Under the Stars early, Midnight Memories had a more straightforward time carving out fractions of :23.25 and :46.95.

Desert Dawn, initially drafting in the leader’s slipstream, angled off the fence and pressed through six furlongs in 1:11.23. Midnight Memories appeared in the favorite’s grasp swinging for home, but she rose to the occasion for jockey Ramon Vazquez.

Pulling out extra in the stretch, the Pegram, Watson, and Weitman homebred drew away by three-quarters of a length to become the first stakes winner sired by Mastery. Midnight Memories negotiated one mile in 1:36.32 and paid $13 as a 5.50-1 chance.

Desert Dawn, the 124-pound co-highweight with Under the Stars, was spotting the winner four pounds in addition to the tactical advantage. Baffert’s Grace Adler reported home another 4 1/4 lengths back in third, and Cinnamon Cat, Under the Stars, and Malibu Marie completed the strung-out field. Kirstenbosch was scratched in favor of Monday’s second race.

Midnight Memories was padding Baffert’s 31% stat in the “blinkers-off” category, having ditched the headgear after a third to Slammed and Grace Adler in a July 28 allowance. The sophomore won her first two career starts in the temporary care of Sean McCarthy, and her scorecard stands at 4-3-0-1, $166,680.

“I told Vaz I don’t know how far she’ll go,” Baffert said, “but just leave there and put her on the lead. I was afraid when Desert Dawn (came to her) because she has a lot of races under her belt. We’ve been high on this filly all along. I would have liked to run one-two-three, but it’s been a good day.” 

Midnight Memories is out of Grade 2 winner Tiz Midnight, herself a daughter of champion Midnight Lute and multiple Grade 1 vixen Tough Tiz’s Sis. Thus Midnight Memories is a third-generation performer for her connections.