In his fifth start on the grass at the seaside racetrack July 17 in the $250,000 Eddie Read (gr. IIT), the 5-year-old son of Pioneerof the Nile collected his fourth win with a game front-running effort.
Under the guidance of Rafael Bejarano—who also rode Midnight Storm to victory last time out in the Shoemaker Mile (gr. IT)—the Phil D'Amato trainee clicked off fractions of :23.82, :48.03, and 1:12.18 under a bit of pressure from grade II winner Bolo.
The stalking challenger moved within a half-length in the final turn, but was no match for Midnight Storm and Bejarano, who had other concerns in the stretch. A pair of closing challengers loomed, then moved alongside the front-runner in the final furlong. Last out Charles Whittingham (gr. IIT) winner Si Sage got a dream trip on the rail with first-time rider Victor Espinoza and two-time grade II winner Ashleyluvssugar almost got even on the outside, but Midnight Storm had just enough left to battle back between and win, hitting the wire in 1:47.88 on a turf course rated firm.
"(Bejarano) saved as much as he could save," D'Amato said. "This horse is just doing so good now. Confidence is just oozing out of him. He stuck his head out there and he wasn't going to let them pass. Great performance and great ride by Raf."
Ashleyluvssugar just missed to finish second by a half-length, followed by Flamboyant, who caught Si Sage for third in the final strides.
Off as the 8-5 favorite in the field of nine, the winner paid $5.40, $3.40, and $2.60 across the board. Ashleyluvssugar brought $5.60 and $3.40, and Flamboyant delivered $3.40 to show.
The win was the fourth graded score for Midnight Storm. He also won the 2015 Seabiscuit (gr. IIT) and the 2014 Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT), both at the beach in north San Diego County.
Bred in Kentucky by part-owner Alex Venneri and Marjorie Post Dye, out of the Bertranto mare My Tina, Midnight Storm has a 7-3-0 record from 17 starts, with earnings of $981,110.