Midnight Bisou has built quite a following after her sweeping move from eighth to first in the April 7 Santa Anita Oaks (G1). It's the kind of move that transports one's thinking from Southern California to Louisville, Ky., for the first Friday in May, and the striking 3-year-old daughter of Midnight Lute finds herself the 5-2 second choice on the morning line for the May 4 Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1).
She may be California-raced and Kentucky-bred, but Midnight Bisou's roots go deep into the Florida Thoroughbred industry, a product of John and Susan Sykes' Woodford Thoroughbreds operation.
Woodford Thoroughbreds, with farms in both Kentucky and central Florida, has gotten off to a big start in 2018, ranking among the top 10 breeders of the year by earnings (with more than $1.6 million) and having four black-type winners on its list so far. The Woodford Thoroughbreds-bred Discreet Lover won Aqueduct Racetrack's Excelsior Stakes (G3) the same day Midnight Bisou annexed the Santa Anita Oaks.
"Mr. Sykes has retired from running his business and is 100% in the horse industry now; he's full in," said Woodford Thoroughbreds vice president Matt Lyons. "He enjoys all aspects of it. We pinhook; we bought some foals to sell as yearlings and some yearlings to sell as 2-year-olds. We breed and we own parts of lots of stallions."
They've enjoyed watching Midnight Bisou rip through three successive graded stakes wins for Allen Racing and Bloom Racing Stable. On Jan. 7 she took the seven-furlong Santa Ynez Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Park, then added the 1 1/16-mile Santa Ysabel Stakes (G3) March 3 for trainer Bill Spawr. In both of her starts at 2, Midnight Bisou was second to eventual grade 1 winner Dream Tree.
Sykes acquired Tour Hostess, the second dam of Midnight Bisou, following her racing career in 2002. Despite making most of her outings in the claiming ranks, she had appeal as a half sister to stakes winner Bay Street Gal.
"At the time we stood Repent," Lyons said. "And with mating him to Tour Hostess, we got Diva Delite (foaled in 2007). We sold her as a yearling (for $16,000) and she sold again as a 2-year-old (for $35,000) and she was in training at Calder with trainer David Vivian. We were watching her closely, as she was by Repent. The stallion had come up with (grade 2 winner) Crown of Thorns and he had this nice filly, so we bought back into her as a racehorse after she won the Florida Oaks (G3, in 2010).
"We took her to Keeneland and ran in the Beaumont Stakes (G2) on Poly, which was her first start on Polytrack and first start outside of Florida and she didn't really like it, but ran third in a grade 2," Lyons said. "Then we took her to the Black-Eyed Susan (Stakes, G2), in which she was one of the favorites and she was making a big move down the backside—like Midnight Bisou made in the Santa Anita Oaks—and a horse on her inside thought she was going to get boxed in and cut across and Diva Delite went down on the track.
"Unfortunately she ended up bowing a tendon as a result of the fall. We thought Diva Delite could have been a grade 1 winner and she was very talented filly."
In her first two years as a broodmare, Diva Delite was bred to Congrats . Looking to add some size, the Woodford team went to super-sized Midnight Lute.
"We got this filly ... she wasn't an overly big filly as a yearling," Lyons said. "As a yearling she was probably just average-sized, but a good mover. We didn't get her sold as a yearling; we didn't want to give her away, so we put her into our training operation and she really trained well and moved well, but Midnight Lute was still kind of not a real popular stallion at the time. He was kind of going through a quiet period. We took her to the 2-year-old sale where she worked well, she went :10 1/5 I believe.
"Then she got in the hands of Mr. (Jeff) Bloom and he really liked her and that fall he kept calling us to tell us how well she was training. Thankfully she's lived up to it."
Churchill Downs, Friday, May 04, 2018, Race 11
PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L 1 1Sassy Sienna (KY) Gary L. Stevens 121 Brad H. Cox 15/1 2 2Coach Rocks (KY) Luis Saez 121 Dale L. Romans 12/1 3 3Classy Act (KY) Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr. 121 W. Bret Calhoun 15/1 4 4Chocolate Martini (KY) Javier Castellano 121 Thomas M. Amoss 12/1 5 5Wonder Gadot (ON) John R. Velazquez 121 Mark E. Casse 20/1 6 6Kelly's Humor (KY) Irad Ortiz, Jr. 121 Brad H. Cox 30/1 7 7Rayya (KY) Drayden Van Dyke 121 Bob Baffert 12/1 8 8Heavenhasmynikki (OH) Calvin H. Borel 121 Anthony T. Quartarolo 50/1 9 9Take Charge Paula (KY) Jose L. Ortiz 121 Kiaran P. McLaughlin 15/1 10 10Midnight Bisou (KY) Mike E. Smith 121 William Spawr 5/2 11 11My Miss Lilly (KY) Joe Bravo 121 Mark A. Hennig 10/1 12 12Patrona Margarita (TX) Ricardo Santana, Jr. 121 W. Bret Calhoun 30/1 13 13Eskimo Kisses (KY) Corey J. Lanerie 121 Kenneth G. McPeek 15/1 14 14Monomoy Girl (KY) Florent Geroux 121 Brad H. Cox 2/1
Churchill Downs, Friday, May 04, 2018, Race 11