08/24/2008 12:00AM

Lewis Michael upsets Pat O'Brien


DEL MAR, Calif. - Lewis Michael, returning to the synthetic surfaces over which he has thrived, rallied to score a mild upset win at Del Mar on Sunday in the Grade 2, $297,500 Pat O’Brien Handicap, a race in which favored Midnight Lute never had a clear run while finishing 10th in the 12-horse field.

With the win, Lewis Michael earns an automatic berth into the Breeders’ Cup Sprint through the Win and You’re In program.

The trip that Lewis Michael ($19.20) worked out under jockey Rene Douglas found him second turning into the stretch of the seven-furlong race. He and Barbecue Eddie traded bumps in the final furlong, then Lewis Michael pulled away late to win by 2 3/4 lengths.

Rebellion closed from last to finish second, a neck in front of Barbecue Eddie. Aaron Gryder, the jockey on Barbecue Eddie, claimed foul against Lewis Michael, but the stewards ruled no change.

Lewis Michael completed seven furlongs on Polytrack in 1:21.17, a track record. He was making his first start at Del Mar, but had been pointed for the race by trainer Wayne Catalano and Frank Calabrese, the owner and breeder of Lewis Michael, both men believing Del Mar’s surface would suit Lewis Michael.

The victory was the third in seven lifetime starts on a synthetic surface for Lewis Michael, who has won 7 of 22 overall.

“That was what we came for, right there,” Catalano said. “Everything went perfect, the whole plan. It’s great when a plan comes together.”

It all went wrong for Midnight Lute, last year’s Eclipse Award-winning sprinter, who was sent off the 4-5 favorite in his first start since November. He was not standing properly in the gate before the start and was backed out, then hopped a bit leaving the gate.

From that point, though, jockey Garrett Gomez never could get Midnight Lute outside horses and into the clear. An inside draw, and bunched field, compromised his chances.

“I had nowhere to go,” Gomez said.