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DRF Breeding Weekend Wrap: Midnight Lute sophomores roll in New Mexico
By Patrick Reed
February saw two promising runners from Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm stallion and Eclipse Award winner Midnight Lute emerge on the West Coast, when Midnight Lucky and Govenor Charlie each scored impressive maiden wins at Santa Anita Park.
Five weeks later, both sophomores took the next step against stakes company at Sunland Park, as Midnight Lucky and Govenor Charlie set track records on Sunday by romping in the Sunland Park Oaks and Grade 3 Sunland Derby, respectively. They are now squarely positioned as contenders for the spring classics. Govenor Charlie is tied with five other horses in second with 50 qualifying points toward the Kentucky Derby. Midnight Lucky also earned 50 points with her victory and shares third place on the Kentucky Oaks leader board with three other fillies.
Sunland Park’s speed-biased dirt oval may have played a factor, but there was no dismissing the authority of both horses’ performances. Midnight Lucky dismissed Florida-based challenger Majestic River leaving the backstretch and powered clear to an eight-length triumph in the Sunland Park Oaks, covering 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.06 and earning a 94 Beyer Speed Figure.
Govenor Charlie had to work slightly harder in the middle stages of the Sunland Derby, but took command at the quarter pole and was not challenged late in a five-length victory, covering 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.54 and receiving a 95 Beyer.
Govenor Charlie and Midnight Lucky share more than the same sire. They, along with Sunland Derby fourth-place finisher and Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes winner Shakin It Up, are the latest talents produced by the long-time partnership between owner Mike Pegram and trainer Bob Baffert. Pegram bred and is the sole owner of Govenor Charlie, and he owns Midnight Lucky with Karl Watson and Paul Weitman. That trio also owned Midnight Lute, a physically imposing son of Real Quiet who Baffert trained to back-to-back wins in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint in 2007 and 2008. Midnight Lute stands for $15,000 at Hill ‘n’ Dale in Lexington, Ky. Midnight Lute's sire, the late dual classic winner and champion Real Quiet, was also owned by Pegram and trained by Baffert.
Pegram purchased Midnight Lucky, who was bred in Kentucky by Dr. Charles Kidder, J. K. Griggs, and Linda Griggs, for $220,000 at the 2011 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale. Baffert said following her dazzling Sunland Park Oaks exhibition that Midnight Lucky is bound for the Kentucky Oaks on May 3 at Churchill. She is out of the Citidancer mare Citiview, who is a half-sister to Grade 1 winner and Grade 1 producer Hookedonthefeelin.
Pegram was hesitant to fully commit Govenor Charlie to the Kentucky Derby on May 4 following his win in the Sunland Derby, telling Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman that “losing the Derby’s no fun” and stating that the final decision would be up to Baffert. Govenor Charlie’s 50 points should be enough to guarantee him a spot in the Derby starting gate, and his pedigree should bolster his chances as well. His dam, Silverbulletway, by Storm Cat, has also produced stakes winner Crisis of Spirit. Silverbulletway is a daughter of champion and Kentucky Oaks winner Silverbulletday, an elite performer for Pegram and Baffert who currently resides at Hill ‘n’ Dale. Three of the Silver Deputy mare's daughters are stakes producers, including Silver Bullet Moon, dam of Shakin It Up.
Saturday’s racing attention concentrated on Turfway Park in Florence, Ky., where the Bourbonette Oaks and Spiral Stakes, both Grade 3 events, also offered points opportunities toward the Kentucky Oaks and Derby. New contenders emerged on Turfway’s Polytrack, as Sam Herzberg’s Black Onyx scored a rallying 1 1/2-length win in the Spiral, and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Tanourin Stables’ Silsita outfought Marathon Lady to win by a nose in the Bourbonette. Both earned 50 points in their respective qualifying programs.
Herzberg was deservedly excited about Black Onyx’s performance. The son of Rock Hard Ten was purchased by Herzberg for $125,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale after he was summoned back to the sales ring by trainer Carl Domino. Now trained by Kelly Breen, the dark bay or brown colt has won two consecutive races and three of five overall.
“This is the best horse I've ever had,” Herzberg told Daily Racing Form’s Joe Nevills. “He's unbelievable looking, just like his dad, Rock Hard Ten. He's running like him, with a lot of heart and I can't say enough about him. He's maturing just at the right time.
“My horse was very immature as a 2-year-old, just like Rock Hard Ten. [Rock Hard Ten] ran his first big race in the Santa Anita Derby, and this is his [Black Onyx's] first big race. We're going to the Derby.”
Rock Hard Ten did impress in the 2004 Santa Anita Derby, when he finished a strong second to Castledale but was demoted to third after drifting in late. The massive son of Kris S. went on to finish second to Smarty Jones in the Preakness Stakes, but did not fully mature until the conclusion of his 3-year-old season. He won four graded stakes in a row over the next year, including two Grade 1 events, but was retired in fall 2005 with an injury to his left foreleg. He began his stud career at Lane’s End Farm in Versailles, Ky., but was sold last fall to the Korean Racing Authority.
Black Onyx is out of the winning Cape Town mare Kalahari Cat and is a half-brother to stakes winner Francois and to Grade 2-placed winner Quality Council. Notable family members include Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Desert Stormer and stakes winner and Group 1 producer Desert Gold.
Plans for Silsita are less certain at this time, but the gray or roan daughter of Adena Springs stallion Macho Uno should be a cinch for the Kentucky Oaks on a points basis. She is out of the multiple stakes-placed Wild Again mare Naturally Wild, and her second dam is Nat’s Lea, who won three stakes races and placed in four others in California during the early 1990s.
Weekend notes: Westrock Stables’ Sky Kingdom picked up his first stakes win in the Tokyo City Cup Stakes at Santa Anita on March 23, drawing away to a 3 3/4-length win for Baffert and jockey Martin Garcia, who would team up with Govenor Charlie the next day. The 4-year-old Empire Maker colt covered 1 1/2 miles on Santa Anita’s main track in 2:30.56 and earned a 103 Beyer. Westrock purchased Sky Kingdom as a weanling for $180,000 at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale from the Lane’s End consignment. He comes from a standout female family, as his dam, the unplaced Kingmambo mare Sky Beam, is a daughter of Grade 1-placed Weekend in Seattle. Weekend in Seattle is a full sister to Horse of the Year and leading sire A. P. Indy and a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Summer Squall, Grade 3 winner Weekend Surprise, and stakes winner Eavesdropper.
At Gulfstream Park, Twilight Eclipse solidified his reputation as a long-distance turf standout with a world-record setting four-length win in the Pan American Stakes. The 4-year-old Purim gelding covered 1 1/2 miles in 2:22.63, which according to Daily Racing Form statistics sets a world record for that distance over turf, eclipsing Bright Thought’s 2:22.72 one week earlier in the San Luis Rey Stakes. Twilight Eclipse, purchased for only $1,000 as an early yearling by trainer John Langemeier at the Keeneland January horses of all ages sale, was privately purchased by West Point Thoroughbreds after winning his first two starts in 2012 at Indiana Downs and transferred to Tom Albertrani. The gelding has now won two Grade 2 stakes from his previous three starts. He is out of the Twilight Agenda mare My Twilight Dancer and his second dam is stakes winner and Grade 3-placed Shimmy, by Nijinsky II. Grade 1 winner and young sire Purim, who stood at Richland Hills Farm in Midway, Ky., was euthanized in early 2012 after colic surgery.