11/11/2012 8:31PM

Hollywood: Midnight Ballet finds distance, new jockey to liking in Sharp Cat


INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Extra distance, a deceptively softer spot, and a new jockey proved to be the winning formula on Sunday at Betfair Hollywood Park for Midnight Ballet, who successfully stretched out to capture the $100,000 Sharp Cat Stakes for 2-year-old fillies.

Midnight Ballet had finished a distant fifth of six in an allowance sprint at Santa Anita in her prior start Oct. 4, but that race didn’t look quite so bad when the winner, Beholder, returned to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. The 1 1/16-mile Sharp Cat afforded Midnight Ballet the opportunity to go two turns, and she was ridden for the first time by Julien Leparoux, a recent arrival to this circuit.

It all added up to a win. Midnight Ballet ($22.20) was sixth in the seven-horse field the first part of the race, began an extended rally on the far turn, and outbattled Renee’s Titan and odds-on favorite Scarlet Strike in the final furlong. Midnight Ballet won by three-quarters of a length, with Scarlet Strike another half-length back in third.

Rhodium was fourth and was followed, in order, by Wittgenstein, Tilde, and Magestic Stinger, who was pulled up down the backstretch. Stewards reported that Magestic Stinger grabbed a quarter - a hoof injury.

“There wasn’t no Beholder in there, and it’s not a speed-favoring track,” winning trainer Tom Proctor said. “She acted up a little in the gate, and she got clobbered leaving the gate, so this was a pretty good race for her.”

Proctor, who trains Midnight Ballet for Stoneway Farm, said he “would have to think about” running in the Grade 1, $500,000 Hollywood Starlet on Dec. 8. She was not nominated to the race, so it would cost $10,000 to supplement, and an additional $10,000 to start.

Midnight Ballet, a filly from the first crop of two-time Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Midnight Lute, won her debut at Del Mar on Aug. 11, so she is now 2 for 3. Both Proctor and Leparoux agreed the extra distance was an asset.

“She’s a big filly and she breaks okay, but she’s not real fast,” Leparoux said. “I got her out at the quarter pole and she made a nice run.”

Scarlet Strike was favored at 4-5 off a second-place finish behind Executiveprivilege in the Grade 1 at Chandelier at Santa Anita on Sept. 29. She was kept out of the Breeders’ Cup because Jerry Hollendorfer, her trainer and co-owner, did not want to run her without Lasix. In the Sharp Cat, she received an ideal ground-saving trip under Joe Talamo, but was outfinished.

“No excuse,” Talamo said. “Saved ground, just got outrun.”