Norman Stables' Silent Bird just held on to win the 6 1/2-furlong sprint by a neck and earn his first graded victory, but the Hall of Fame jockey kept thinking about his sire.
"I asked my Summer Bird progeny—my Triple Crown race-winning baby—for all he had and he gave it," the rider said of the 2009 Belmont Stakes (G1) winner. "For him to look like Summer Bird, feel like him, and go like him—it's amazing. I have incredibly fond memories and this brings it all back."
Silent Bird didn't get a perfect trip in the Midnight Lute, however, and had to earn that first graded victory through an inside duel with favored Americanize. Both didn't break all that well, but rushed up to take over the lead from Tough Sunday.
"(Trainer) Mark (Glatt) said to be careful out of the gate and that he could be sluggish, and he was right," Desormeaux said. "I had to ride him hard for a good 100 yards out of there."
Americanize, who broke from post 4, had a head in front as the pair cut fractions of :22.18 and :44.75, but drifted out into the middle of the track in the stretch. Silent Bird, who initially came out and appeared to give room for the stalking Calculator on the rail, shut off the grey challenger's inside path at the top of the lane and continued to the wire to finish off the distance in 1:16.03. Tough Sunday re-rallied on the outside to just get second, a nose in front of Americanize.
The Santa Anita stewards, who did not initiate an inquiry, said Silent Bird did come in on Calculator in the stretch, but determined that the eventual winner was clear, and also pointed out that Calculator did not break stride en route to a fourth-place finish, 1 1/2 lengths behind Americanize.
"We put the blinkers on (for the first time in the Midnight Lute) and that certainly put a little more speed in him," Glatt said. "It was a typical one-hole draw. He doesn't like dirt in his face, so I told Kent, 'Whatever you do, let's try, with the rail draw, to get to the outside.' When he broke a little flat, Kent kind of asked him to run and then he jumped into the bit, so at that point he just figured to keep his position and he kept it all the way."
It was Silent Bird's fifth win in six starts on the Santa Anita main track. Although he appeared he may have been over his head in his first two graded starts—a fourth-place run in the March 11 Triple Bend (G1) and a third-place finish in the Aug. 26 Pat O'Brien (G2) at Del Mar—he had a five-race win streak before those races, which included a score in the 2016 Damascus Stakes.
Bred by JMI in Kentucky, out of the Saint Ballado mare Rutledge Ballado, Silent Bird now has a 6-1-1 record from nine starts and $316,800 in earnings. He was a $40,000 purchase by Glatt from Bluegrass Thoroughbred Services' consignment to the 2013 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall yearling sale.