05/03/2014 1:51PM

Humana Distaff: Midnight Lucky back with a vengeance

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Barbara D. Livingston
Midnight Lucky, making her first start in almost a year, pulls away under Rosie Napravnik to win the Humana Distaff.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Midnight Lucky picked up where she left off and provided her connections a much-needed pick-me-up with a dominant 4 1/2-length victory in Saturday’s Grade 1, $300,000 Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs.

Benefitting from the scratches of other speed types Heart Stealer and Saturday Nthe Park, Midnight Lucky, with Rosie Napravnik up, assumed the lead right from the start, set comfortable early fractions of 22.74 seconds for the quarter, 45.34 for the half, and galloped home an easy winner. Street Girl, a 21-1 longshot, rallied for second, a half-length over the late-running Scherzinger. Judy the Beauty, the 6-5 favorite, was fourth, followed by Speedinthruthecity and Iotapa.

Midnight Lucky covered seven furlongs in 1:22.23 and returned $5.20 as the second choice behind Judy the Beauty.

The win was the fourth from five career starts for Midnight Lucky, who had not run since winning the Grade 1 Acorn last May 27 at Belmont Park. Baffert said he didn’t like the way Midnight Lucky was doing last summer at Del Mar and decided to turn her out.

The win helped provide some solace for Baffert and owners Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman, who had to scratch Hoppertunity from Saturday’s Kentucky Derby on Thursday due to a suspected bruised foot.

“We needed to win a race,” Baffert said. “The Hoppertunity group, you could have poured us out of a shot glass the last couple of days.”

Relying on his experience, Baffert felt he could get Midnight Lucky to fire in a Grade 1 off a layoff and he was spot on.

“We can do that off the layoff, I’ve been doing it all my life, from my Quarter Horse days,” Baffert said. “She’s brilliant. When she got away on an easy pace the first quarter I knew she had them over a barrel. When she’s on, she’s really on.”

Speaking of on, that was Napravnik’s first ride on Saturday’s card, and first since winning Friday’s Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on Untapable. She is now 12 for 30 at the meet.

Napravnik, who rode Midnight Lucky in last year’s Acorn, said she worked Midnight Lucky a week prior to this race and said “she’s herself. She’s probably going to be even better.”

Meanwhile, Judy the Beauty finished worse than third for the first time in her career. Trainer Wesley Ward believes it was simply a case of running her back too quick off her Grade 1 win in the Madison at Keeneland on April 12.

“I should have waited for the Ballerina,” Ward said. “She just came out of that race so good, but three weeks in between was a little bit squeezing her. She didn’t have a lot of fight in her.”

Ward said that he would likely wait to run Judy the Beauty in the Grade 1 Ballerina at Saratoga in August, where she could very well run against Midnight Lucky. Baffert said his primary objective with Midnight Lucky this year is the Breeders’ Cup Filly and mare Sprint at Santa Anita in the fall.