Switching to the turf and taking off blinkers proved the right moves for Midnight Interlude when he edged Surrey Star by a neck to win the $72,050 Tsunami Slew Stakes on the night of June 17 at Hollywood Park (VIDEO).
Well beaten in both the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Preakness (gr. I) after his upset at 13-1 in the Santa Anita Derby, Midnight Interlude won the one-mile grass test for 3-year-olds after a pressing the pace under Rafael Bejarano.
Closest to pacesetter Moment of Weakness for most of the trip, the winning 3-year-old son of War Chant and the Groom Dancer mare Midnight Kiss gained a half-length lead with about an eighth of a mile to run, then outfought Surrey Star, who saved ground throughout under jockey Joe Talamo, to prevail in a tight finish.
Owned and bred by Arnold Zetcher and trained by Bob Baffert, Midnight Interlude returned $4.60, $3.20, and $2.20 as the 13-10 favorite in a field reduced to five by a pair of scratches. The win was the third in seven starts for Midnight Interlude. He completed the mile in 1:35.12 on firm ground while increasing his earnings to $692,910.
“This is so important when you have the clientele like I have, who will let you do a crazy thing like this,’’ said Baffert. “Win the Santa Anita Derby, run in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, then run him back in the Tsunami Slew on turf.
“So it worked out. They (Mr. and Mrs. Zetcher) flew all the way in from Boston just for this. He loves the turf, but I also think he needs a firmer dirt. He worked terrific at Santa Anita. I think it was just the deeper, sandier tracks he was having trouble with. I was really disappointed because he had trained so well for the (Kentucky) Derby and Preakness.
“I took the blinkers off because we’re trying to teach him something. We rushed him right along, rushed him right into the Santa Anita Derby, but now we can sit back and start teaching him a little bit how to rate and finish up like he did tonight.’’
Back in California after splitting the field in the American Turf (gr. IIT) May 6 at Churchill Downs, Surrey Star paid $4 and $2.80. Temple's Door, the 9-5 second choice who loomed a threat early in the stretch before losing his punch, paid $2.40 to show. The loss was the first in three starts for the son of Leroidesanimaux, who finished 1 3/4 lengths behind the runner-up.
Moment of Weakness and Every Ego completed the order of finish. Extensive and War Pilot were scratched.