07/18/2012 7:48PM

Del Mar: Midnight Crooner gives Baffert a turf win in first division of Oceanside

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Benoit & Associates
Midnight Crooner wins the first division of the Oceanside, the first stakes of the Del Mar meet.

DEL MAR, Calif. - A stable loaded with 3-year-olds now has a runner for major turf stakes.

Midnight Crooner, trained by Bob Baffert, won his first stakes in the $109,300 first division of the Oceanside Stakes on Wednesday, the opening day of the Del Mar meeting.

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Midnight Crooner ($10.20) rallied between rivals in the final furlong to edge 8-1 Chips All In by a neck, finishing a mile in 1:34.74. The victory was the second consecutive win for Midnight Crooner, who won an optional claimer at Hollywood Park on May 6 under jockey Rafael Bejarano.

Bejarano was aboard for Wednesday’s stakes, and gave Midnight Crooner an ideal ride, stalking the pace of Canuletmedowneasy and Chips All In to the final turn.

“I was following that other horse and I had a beautiful trip,” Bejarano said. Chips All In “didn’t quit in the stretch.”

Chips All In started from the outside in the field of seven, and was first or second throughout. He led by a length in the stretch, but could not sustain the advantage. Jockey Alonso Quinonez did not second guess his decision to urge Chips All In to the front early in the race.

“I had to send him, this horse,” Quinonez said. “I wanted to save ground on the first turn. I didn’t think that other horse would pass me.”

Koast finished third, followed by Blingo, Boat Trip, Facoltoso and Canuletmedowneasy. Boat Trip was the 2-1 favorite.

Midnight Crooner is a full brother to Midnight Interlude, the winner of the 2011 Santa Anita Derby. Midnight Interlude was second in the 2011 Del Mar Derby and is scheduled to start at this meeting.

Owned by breeder Arnold Zetcher, Midnight Crooner could run in the Del Mar Derby on Sept. 2. The colt by War Chant has won 3 of 7 starts and $128,765. He was eighth in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland in April, the only time he has been worse than third in five starts this year.

“Bob had good thought about him for the day he came in,” owner Arnold Zetcher said. “With the exception of the Blue Grass, he’s moved right up.”