06/18/2011 12:22PM

Midnight Interlude wins in turf debut at Hollywood

Benoit & Associates
Midnight Interlude, Rafael Bejarano aboard, wins his turf debut in the Tsunami Slew at Hollywood Park.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – After dismal performances in the first two legs of the Triple Crown, Santa Anita Derby winner Midnight Interlude revived his season with a hard-fought win in the $72,050 Tsunami Slew Stakes at Hollywood Park on Friday night.

The stakes was a far cry from the lucrative races in which Midnight Interlude ran earlier this year, but it showed he could handle turf in his debut on the surface.

The win has given owner Arnold Zetcher and trainer Bob Baffert a reason to point Midnight Interlude to two graded stakes on turf for 3-year-olds at Del Mar – the $150,000 La Jolla Handicap over 1 1/16 miles on Aug. 13 and the $250,000 Del Mar Derby over 1 1/8 miles on Sept. 4.

“There’s some big turf races at Del Mar we’ll look at,” Baffert said after the race.

The trainer admitted he was concerned about how Midnight Interlude would perform following a 16th in the Kentucky Derby and a 13th in the Preakness Stakes, performances that left Baffert disappointed.

“I think it was just the deeper, sandier tracks he was having trouble with,” Baffert said. “I was really disappointed because he had trained so well for the Derby and Preakness.

For the Tsunami Slew Stakes, which was run over a mile for 3-year-olds, Midnight Interlude raced without blinkers. Ridden by Rafael Bejarano, Midnight Interlude stalked pacesetter Moment of Weakness for the first six furlongs, took the lead in early stretch, and held off a late threat from Santa Anita stakes winner Surrey Star to win by a neck. Midnight Interlude ($4.60) was timed in 1:35.12. Surrey Star, the winner of the La Puente Stakes in April, finished 1 3/4 lengths in front of the previously unbeaten Temple’s Door, who was third in his stakes debut.

“I took the blinkers off because we’re trying to teach him something,” Baffert said. “We rushed him right along, rushed him right into the Santa Anita Derby, but now we can sit back and start teaching him a little bit how to rate and finish up like he did.”

By War Chant, Midnight Interlude has won 3 of 7 starts and $692,910.

Coil could go in Swaps or Dwyer

Midnight Interlude gave Baffert his sixth stakes win of the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting.

Coil won the Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap for Baffert on June 11, and could return for the $150,000 Swaps Stakes over 1 1/8 miles on July 9, the championship race of the meeting for 3-year-old males.

Baffert said on Saturday that he is between the Swaps Stakes and the $150,000 Dwyer Stakes for 3-year-olds over 1 1/16 miles at Belmont Park on July 2 for Coil, who races for by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman.

◗ There are two stakes for females at Hollywood Park on the final weekend of June – next Saturday’s $150,000 Hollywood Oaks for 3-year-old fillies over 1 1/16 miles and next Sunday’s $100,000 Beverly Hills Handicap for fillies and mares over 1 1/4 miles on turf.