A Veneri Racing and Little Red Feather Racing's Midnight Storm put in a repeat performance on the Southern California grass Aug. 21 to win the $200,000 Del Mar Mile Handicap (gr. IIT) in front-running fashion.
The 5-year-old Pioneerof the Nile horse led at every call Sunday afternoon to win his third straight graded stakes, but got a challenge late from Om.
The 4-year-old Munnings colt pulled alongside Midnight Storm in the stretch, but the Phil D'Amato-trained 1-5 favorite would not let him by and held on to win by a half-length, the same margin as his victories in the July 17 Eddie Read (gr. IIT) and the June 4 Shoemaker Mile (gr. IT).
"I felt like he had it under control the whole way, but I was kind of surprised to see that big kick Om had in the stretch and it got pretty close for a while," D'Amato said.
Midnight Storm set fractions of :22.82, :46.66, and 1:10.64 through six furlongs, and maintained a length advantage throughout. Om stalked in third and angled out at the top of the stretch to make his run, but could not hit the front in his first race since his sixth-place finish in the Kilroe Mile (gr. IT) March 12.
"Heck of a good race for him off that layoff," said Om's jockey, Gary Stevens. "(Trainer) Dan (Hendricks) and his crew had him ready. I would have liked to have gotten out sooner. My horse has a really good three-eighths mile run in him, and I had to wait and spot one of the best turf milers in the country a pretty good edge."
Midnight Storm finished off the mile 1:33.92 on firm turf and paid $2.60, $2.10, and $2.10 across the board. Om delivered $3 and $2.40 as the 9-2 second choice, and Ohio returned $2.80 to show.
"I had to use him a little bit to start," Bejarano said. "I knew (Ambitious Brew) and (Om) had some speed and I didn't want them to get a jump on me. My horse has natural speed, but I asked him for a little more to start. He's a good horse and he showed it today."
The Del Mar Mile was Midnight Storm's fifth win in six starts on the Del Mar grass. He now has just more than $1.1 million in earnings and an 8-3-0 record from 18 starts.