Midnight Interlude, the unluckiest of losers in two starts on the turf at Del Mar this summer, heads a field of 14 entered in the $150,000 Oak Tree Derby (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita Oct. 15.
Trained by Bob Baffert, Arnold Zetcher’s homebred son of War Chant didn't get much luck in the post position draw for this 1 1/8-mile turf event, either. The Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) winner drew post 13 in the maximum field.
The Oak Tree Derby is the ninth race on the Santa Anita program with a probable 5:08 p.m. PDT post. All but one of the 15 sophomores nominated for the Oak Tree Derby were entered. The only one that wasn't, Western Aristocrat, won the Jamaica Handicap (gr. IT) at Belmont Park Oct. 8.
Midnight Interlude was ultra-tough in the Sept. 4 Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT). Forced to go from the rail post, he battled on the pace into the stretch and fought Banned all the way to the wire before losing by a nose. Prior to that, Midnight Interlude was blocked and forced to steady at mid-stretch in the La Jolla Handicap (gr. IIT) Aug. 13. He ended up fourth, beaten by 1 1/4 lengths as the 11-10 favorite.
Rafael Bejarano will be back aboard the bay colt, winner of the Tsunami Slew Stakes at Hollywood Park in his grass debut in June.
Baffert decided to try Midnight Interlude on the turf after he failed to be a factor in the first two legs of the Triple Crown this spring. Based on the colt's three efforts on grass so far, it appears to have been the right decision.
Midnight Interlude will take earnings of $751,910 into the Oak Tree Derby from a record of 3-2-1 in nine starts.
The biggest threat to Midnight Interlude could come from French invader Venomous, a British-bred colt by Red Ransom that twice came within two lengths of capturing group I events earlier this season. Venomous, trained by Tony Clout for Magalen O. Bryant, ran third in the French Two Thousand Guineas (Fr-I) in May at Longchamp and was a close fifth in the Prix Jean Prat (Fr-I) at Chantilly in July.
A two-time winner in 11 starts, all in France, Venomous will be transferred to the local stable of Leonard Powell following the Oak Tree Derby. Drawing post 3, the bay colt will be ridden in his United States bow by Joel Rosario.
Jerry and Ann Moss' homebred Cloud Man figures to draw solid support after a strong fourth in the Del Mar Derby, his initial stakes start for trainer John Shirreffs. Cloud Man, who was beaten by just one length in the Del Mar Derby after rallying four wide in the stretch, has won two of six starts this year. The son of 1995 Kentucky Derby winner Thunder Gulch did not race at 2.
Mike Smith rides Cloud Man for the first time. They break from post 12.
Class Racing Stable's Irish-bred Surrey Star won the La Puente Stakes over the course in April. Trained by Jim Cassidy, the onetime English competitor missed by just a neck to the top selection in the one-mile Tsunami Slew before regressing with a fifth in the La Jolla. This will be the Dubawi colt's first start since, though he will have to overcome the far outside post.
Also in the field is Cozy Kitten, coming off a stakes win at Kentucky Downs Sept. 4 for owners Sarah and Ken Ramsey and trainer Wesley Ward.
Swaps Stakes (gr. II) winner Dreamy Kid, a homebred for Robert S. Evans, was a competitive sixth in his turf bow for Neil Drysdale in the Del Mar Derby. Lil Bit O'Fun missed by a neck to Burns when second in the La Jolla.
Newcomer Northern Causeway is fresh off a victory in the British Columbia Derby (Can-III) at Hastings Racecourse, while Thirtyfirststreet was a front-running victor in the $200,000 Lone Star Derby in May.
$150,000 Oak Tree Derby (gr. IIT, Race 9, 5:08 p.m.), 3-Year-olds, 1 1/8 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Great Warrior (BRZ), O A Berrio, 118, A C Avila
2. Northern Causeway (KY), W Antongeorgi III, 122, L Kasmerski
3. Venomous (GB), J Rosario, 118, T Clout
4. Arraignment (KY), D P Vergara, 118, R Gilker
5. Dreamy Kid (KY), M Garcia, 122, N D Drysdale
6. Thirtyfirststreet (CA), P A Valenzuela, 120, D F O'Neill
7. Lil Bit O'Fun (KY), D R Flores, 120, T F Proctor
8. Ultimate Eagle (KY), M A Pedroza, 118, M Pender
9. Akkadian (KY), B Blanc, 118, J C Canani
10. Theresmyeverything (NY), A T Gryder, 118, E G Harty
11. Cozy Kitten (KY), A Quinonez, 118, W A Ward
12. Cloud Man (KY), M E Smith, 118, J A Shirreffs
13. Midnight Interlude (KY), R Bejarano, 122, B Baffert
14. Surrey Star (IRE), C Sutherland,120, J M Cassidy