Leading from start to finish under jockey Rafael Bejarano, A Venneri Racing and Little Red Feather's 5-year-old son of Pioneerof the Nile first turned back a challenge from multiple graded stakes winner Heart to Heart and then held off Tourist to claim his first grade I score June 4 at Santa Anita Park. Watch Video
The Phil D'Amato runner rebounded from a lackluster seventh in the May 7 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic Stakes (gr. IT) at Churchill Downs, finishing the mile on firm turf in 1:33.55.
"He was a little bit unlucky in that he hit two soft turf courses, and he doesn't like it soft," D'Amato said. "He likes it firm like today, and when you get that firm turf course, he'll give you a performance like this.
"It's vindication because I thought he should have won it last year; he was kind of up against it. He vindicated himself and now he's a grade I winner."
The Shoemaker Mile is a Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" event for the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT), and guarantees the winner a berth in the starting gate with pre-entry and entry fees paid.
"Onward to the Breeders' Cup," D'Amato said. Midnight Storm did not run in that race in 2015, ending his season instead with a victory in the Nov. 27 Seabiscuit Handicap (gr. IIT) at Del Mar.
This year, quickly ranging over from the outside post in a field of six, Midnight Storm got the advantage over Heart to Heart and put up fast opening fractions of :22.68 and :46 flat.
"He had his ears up doing it. If he had his ears pinned back and he looked like he was going full speed, I would have been concerned," D' Amato said. "I thought Rafael saved a little bit at the top of the lane."
After three-quarters in 1:09.95, Midnight Storm put away Heart to Heart and jockey Julien Leparoux, but then had Tourist to contend with, who closed with a huge run around the final turn and made a strong effort through seven-eighths in 1:21.75. Midnight Storm would not be denied, digging deep and pulling clear just in time. The win was a second consecutive in the race for Bejarano, who last year handed Midnight Storm his defeat aboard Talco.
"I knew Heart to Heart was going to try for the lead and if I let him get to the lead, he'd control it," Bejarano said. "Julien tried to relax his horse right away. My horse is tough to control and I don't want to fight with him, so I let him run a little bit into the first turn. After that I tried to get set up, tried to get him relaxed and I had a lot of horse. I had plenty of horse and he just took off."
Midnight Storm went off at odds of 9-2 and paid $11.20, $5.80, and $3.60. Tourist brought $5 and $2.80 at 7-2. It was 4 1/4 lengths back to Twentytwentyvision, who finished third and returned $3 to show, while 4-5 choice Heart to Heart wound up fourth after pressing the pace early. Cape Wolfe and Home Run Kitten completed the order of finish.
Bred in Kentucky by Alex Venneri and Marjorie Post Dye out of the Bertrando mare My Tina, Midnight Storm was a $38,000 RNA at the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale when consigned by Vinery Sales. He improved his record to six wins and three seconds from 16 starts.