Video: Midnight Lute S. (G3)
The two arrived at the wire with entirely different trips. Altamira Racing Stable and David Bernsen's St. Joe Bay—a 4-year-old by St. Anddan—set the pace under jockey Kent Desormeaux, with fractions of :21.47 and :43.57 through a half mile, while Solid Wager—a 5-year-old Birdonthewire gelding owned by Gary and Cecil Barber and Stanford Stable—lagged well behind the top four horses, as many as eight lengths behind the leader.
Under the guidance of Victor Espinoza, however, Solid Wager began to make up ground in the turn and surged in the stretch on the outside to move alongside his stablemate in the final strides. The top pair hit the wire in 1:15.03 on a track rated sloppy.
"Unbelievable," Miller said, after taking a winner's circle photo with both horses after the race. "Both horses ran super. Both riders rode super. I couldn't call it and obviously the stewards couldn't, either. I'm just elated for all those involved.
"Live, I thought (Solid Wager) got it. On the replay, I thought (St. Joe Bay) got it. ... I didn't know who to root for, but I was happy for everybody."
St. Joe Bay set flashy fractions for the second start in a row, following a 6 1/2-length blowout allowance win last time out Dec. 4, but Desormeaux was only concerned with Solid Wager turning for home.
"I almost got caught and (Espinoza) almost got all the way there, but it was just perfect for Pete," Desormeaux said. "He's the biggest winner."
California-bred Solid Wager earned his second straight stakes win, following a half-length score Nov. 20 in the Cary Grant Stakes at Del Mar. He was a $3,000 purchase by High Country Sales from the Madera Thoroughbreds consignment to the Barretts Equine Limited October 2012 yearling sale, while Florida-bred St. Joe Bay sold to Miller as agent for $60,000 from Bobby Dodd's consignment to the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s June 2014 2-year-olds and horses of racing age sale.