04/28/2013 1:14PM

Kentucky Oaks: Midnight Lucky gives Baffert a serious threat to favorites

Barbara D. Livingston
Midnight Lucky, with Dana Barnes aboard, sizzled the final quarter-mile of her five-furlong workout Sunday in 22.68 seconds.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Though it is becoming increasingly likely trainer Bob Baffert won’t have a runner in this year’s Kentucky Derby, there is no doubt he has a serious one in Friday’s $1 million Kentucky Oaks.

On an otherwise quiet Sunday morning at Churchill Downs, Midnight Lucky had observers in awe with a sensational five-furlong workout over the main track.

Working in company with the 3-year-old colt Code West, Midnight Lucky breezed five furlongs in 59.04 seconds with exercise rider Dana Barnes never moving her hands. Breaking about four lengths behind Code West from the 4 1/2-furlong pole, Midnight Lucky went a quarter in 24.42 seconds and three furlongs in 36.36 seconds, meaning she got her final quarter in 22.68 seconds. She finished about a half-length in front of Code West and galloped out six furlongs in 1:11.92.

The move was done following the renovation break. Before the break, the track was rated good. With dry weather prevailing, the track would have been considered fast after the break.

“She's so much fun,” said Barnes, longtime exercise rider for Baffert. “That's what's so much fun, when you feel that acceleration. You feel like you're loping along, but you're rolling by everybody.”

Given the depth of this Oaks field and Midnight Lucky’s lack of experience - she has only raced twice - Baffert said he was looking for a strong move from her on Sunday.

“She's always worked well. She's an exceptional filly,” said Baffert, who has won the Oaks with Silverbulletday (1999) and Plum Pretty (2011). “She worked really well. She had to work well, like that, to throw her in with the wolves. It's probably the toughest Oaks I've ever seen. They should give the Eclipse after the race."

Midnight Lucky was blowing pretty hard coming off the track. As she was being bathed, she was a little irritated by some dirt in her eye, which became red, but assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes wiped the dirt away with a towel.

As strongly as Midnight Lucky breezed, Baffert wasn’t ready to make any bold predictions given the depth of the Oaks field.

Among the 11 fillies expected to be entered on Tuesday are Beholder, last year’s 2-year-old champion filly and recent winner of the Santa Anita Oaks; Dreaming of Julia, the 21 3/4-length winner of the Gulfstream Park Oaks; Unlimited Budget, the undefeated winner of the Fair Grounds Oaks, and Close Hatches, undefeated winner of the Grade 2 Gazelle.

Also, Princess of Sylmar, who finished second in the Gazelle after winning four consecutive races, was confirmed as a starter for the Oaks by trainer Todd Pletcher on Sunday. Mike Smith has picked up that mount.

 “She has shown brilliance,” Baffert said of Midnight Lucky. “But there are a lot of fillies in there that have shown brilliance; [Dreaming of Julia] last time showed brilliance, Beholder. The pace is going to be the whole key.”

Shortly after Midnight Lucky breezed, Close Hatches worked four furlongs by herself in 47.51 seconds. She went her first quarter in 23.02 seconds and galloped out five furlongs in 1:00.73.

“She was super,” trainer Bill Mott said.

Midnight Lucky has made only two starts and Close Hatches has made three, making them the two fillies with the least experience in this deep field.

“It would take a special horse to overcome a lack of experience,” Mott said. “We’re taking our chance. It’s definitely a challenge; that adds a little more to it.”

* Believe You Can, last year’s Kentucky Oaks winner, worked five furlongs in 1:00.80 Sunday at Churchill. She is being pointed to Friday’s Grade 2, $300,000 La Troienne Stakes.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman and Mike Welsch



lfc1963 More than 1 year ago
Key Unlimited budget.Looks like it will be a thriller...
Karl Deppen More than 1 year ago
Oaks-Derby D.D. To me this is the best bet of the weekend. The last time I lost was when Big Brown won the Derby ( didn't use him because of post position, but had the long shot in the Oaks, still kicking myself over that mistake ) Pick one or two on Fri. and wheel. This yr. for me it'll be Dreamin of Julia and Beholder, just can't eliminate either. It's a great feeling knowing you have the winner of the Derby on Friday !
John More than 1 year ago
Sometimes you see a horse do something and you say, "My God, that horse is going to be special " I had a good sized bet, first time out against Midnight Lucky. We all know the feeling when you know you are beat 1/2 way thru the far turn, and this horse was being hand ridden . I know, you dont jump up and beat a stakes field like this off a Sunland race, unless, you arent afraid to put your money where your mouth is and catch her at 4-1 this time. If she wins, you'll never see the top side of 4-5 again ! Baffert is acting "coy" I think he knows he has something VERY SPECIAL !
ROBERT More than 1 year ago
John I agree with everything you said. I think she may be the best 3 year old period ! lets say she kicks butt in the Oaks and comes out of the race sound . I can see her possibly comming back for the Preakness or Belmont to prove that she is no Fluke ! What do you think ?
Snarky More than 1 year ago
Suggestions for BoBBaff and BoyBaff : Bob - Hey, these other fillies in the KOaks with Midnight Lucky don't seem to be kidding around - May be a good time to leave those plastic shoes or ice skates or whatever The Dude wore at Charles Town, leave them in the barn. Bode - Don't pay any attention to those who tell you that your hair will be pure white when you're twelve years old. They're just a bunch of old folks who knew your Dad when he was a kid. What do they know?
anthony i More than 1 year ago
look out for Silsita, Pletchers filly you didnt mention. Shes getting good at the right time and is bred for the wet.
Stephen Thompson More than 1 year ago
Close Hatches will be tough if the track is playing like it did saturday night. Rosario should have dead aim on all the speed like Beholder, Rose to Gold, Dreaming of Julia...
Ricky Williams More than 1 year ago
Rose to Gold up the rail.......Bo rail.....
Geral John Pinault More than 1 year ago
Everyone's overlooking Unlimited Budget. She's won over different tracks, she has pace speed so she can sit just off the front runners, and she closes powerfully. Plus she gets Castellano who is hot now too. I'll be rolling the wheelbarrow...
Perl More than 1 year ago
I'm with you on this one General! Except I'll be pulling a bag of nickles out of my pocket.
Nicholas Heaven More than 1 year ago
u got it general he has the best running style that fits this race. he will stalk pace at 5th and blow by these.
Ian GW More than 1 year ago
Close Hatches a tactical edge in this race.
Nicholas Heaven More than 1 year ago
have to lead to win. he wont get lead in this spot
Stephen Thompson More than 1 year ago
He didn't have to have the lead in his debut race where he went from last to first. Get your facts straight. Rosario has no intentions of going to the lead on Friday.
Nicholas Heaven More than 1 year ago
also his breeding doesn't say he will get distance, his father is first defence winner of kings bishop
Tom Jackson More than 1 year ago
How about we refer to the horse by it's real gender? She's a filly.
MD23 More than 1 year ago
Hope the workout didn't take too much out of her. She's my pick. I think she could be something special. I know she hasn't beat much but she's winning the way a freak would againt her competitors.