Midnight Lucky had nearly a year between races, but lost none of her class in the interim. Leaving five older fillies and mares in her wake, she rumbled into the stretch of the $330,600 Humana Distaff (gr. I) at Churchill Downs and widened away to a 4 1/2 length victory (VIDEO).
The Bob Baffert trainee, ridden by Rosie Napravnik for Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman, got seven furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.23 after clicking through early fractions of :22.74, :45.04, and 1:09.01. The front-running tally was her first start since a 6 1/4-length victory in the May 27 Acorn Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park last year.
"She broke wonderfully," Napravnik said of the 8-5 second choice. "Coming from the outside (post 8), I was able to take my time getting into position. I was always comfortable. Coming off a year's layoff, she's just as good as she was."
Midnight Lucky, a 4-year-old daughter of Midnight Lute , returned $5.20, $4, and $3 while 21-1 hope Street Girl paid $13.80 and $5.40 as the longest shot on the board. Back half a length in third was Scherzinger, who paid $3.80, while 6-5 favorite Judy the Beauty settled for fourth. Speedinthruthecity and Iotapa completed the order of finish. Heart Stealer and Saturday Nthe Park scratched.
The Humana Distaff was Midnight Lucky's third win from five starts. The only loss of her career came when she ran fifth in the 2013 Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I).
"She's a great filly, a great filly," said Baffert. "I wasn't concerned about putting her in a race like this off the layoff. She's that kind. I know she can run on, but I'm going to keep her under a mile. That's where she's really good.
"I don't know what I'll do with her next, but the aim is to have her ready for the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (gr. I)," Baffert added. "Going a mile or less, this filly is as good as any I have ever had."
It was the second victory in the race for Baffert, who trained Pussycat Doll to win the 2006 renewal for Pegram.
Bred in Kentucky C. Kidder and J.K. & Linda Griggs out of the Citidancer mare Citiview, the gray filly improved her earnings to $565,022. She was a $220,000 purchase by Pegram from the Gainesway consignment at the 2011 Fasig-Tipton New York select yearling sale.
Judy the Beauty, who tracked the winner in second before tiring in the stretch, was coming off a 2 1/2-length victory in the Madison Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland April 12. The Ghostzapper mare had not been out of the money in 15 prior races, winning seven times.
"I went against my better judgment in running her back in three weeks.," trainer Wesley Ward said.