10/06/2008 12:00AM

Midnight Lute arriving just in time

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Don't count Midnight Lute out of the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

That was the message from trainer Bob Baffert on Sunday after Midnight Lute worked six furlongs in 1:10.60 from the gate at Santa Anita, preparing for a defense of his victory in the 2007 BC Sprint at Monmouth Park.

"I finally have him where I had him last year," Baffert said. "I took the blinkers off of him. He stood perfect in the gate and he broke like a shot."

The champion sprinter of 2007, Midnight Lute has started once this year, finishing 10th in the Pat O'Brien Handicap at Del Mar on Aug. 24. Midnight Lute severely grabbed a quarter at the start of that seven-furlong race and has worn a protective plate on the affected foot since that race. Baffert said that Midnight Lute will continue to train with the plate before the BC Sprint on Oct. 25, but will not race with it.

"The foot is in good shape so far," Baffert said.

Romance Is Diane's stock rises

Romance Is Diane, who is scheduled to be sold in Kentucky next month, nearly went out a winner on Sunday.

Trying to become the first female to win the $250,000 California Cup Classic for statebreds, Romance Is Diane led by a length in the stretch, but was caught near the finish by Mr. Chairman and lost by a head.

Romance Is Diane has won 6 of 16 starts and $712,718. She has won four stakes for owner Senji Nishimura, including the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet Stakes.

Trainer Mike Mitchell said she sells as a broodmare prospect, and could race next year if the new owners choose to. "We've got it set up to sell her," he said. "This race didn't hurt her value."

In Saturday's race over 1 1/8 miles, Romance Is Diane, 4, was third behind pacesetter Cheroot to the final turn before taking the lead.

"At the quarter pole, I thought I would win," Mitchell said. "I took my shot. I'm glad she ran well. If she ran badly, I'd feel badly."

Distant Victory gets a break off first stakes win

Distant Victory is likely to be given a late-season vacation following her first stakes win in Sunday's $100,000 California Cup Distance Handicap. Breeder and co-owner John Harris said Distant Victory will be pointed for the La Canada series for 4-year-old fillies at Santa Anita early in the winter-spring meeting.

"I don't think her race was her best effort," Harris said. "She's such a nice filly and we want to take our time. She looks like a filly that has done everything right and could be a great 4-year-old."

Co-owned by Scott Gross and trained by Carla Gaines, Distant Victory has won 4 of 6 starts and $199,596.

Best in the barn? Hard to say.

It may take Howard Zucker through the winter to determine the best female turf sprinter in his stable.

Last month, Zucker swept divisions of the Daisycutter Handicap over five furlongs on turf at Del Mar with Synnin and Grinnin and Queen Ofthe Catsle. While Synnin and Grinnin, a winner of five consecutive races, has yet to return to racing, Queen Ofthe Catsle won her second consecutive start in Saturday's Grade 3 Sen. Ken Maddy Handicap.

Ridden by Mike Smith for owner C.T. Grether, Queen Ofthe Catsle won by a length, rallying from off the pace.

"He rode her beautifully and saved every step of ground," Zucker said. "This is a really special filly for us."

Zucker hinted that he may wait for the winter-spring Santa Anita meeting to start Queen Ofthe Catsle, a winner of 5 of 12 starts and $258,784.

"It's there's something at Hollywood in the fall, maybe we'll run there," Zucker said. "If not, I'm happy to wait for the main meet and wait for the hill. She obviously liked it pretty well."

There may be enough races on the local schedule for both horses. Synnin and Grinnin was held out of the Sen. Ken Maddy because Zucker wanted to keep her off Santa Anita's quirky hillside turf course, which includes a crossing over the main track. Zucker said last week he wants Synnin and Grinnin to run on courses with an inside rail throughout.

One possibility for Synnin and Grinnin or Queen Ofthe Catsle is the $65,000 Dance in the Mood Stakes over six furlongs on turf at Hollywood Park on Oct. 29, the opening day of the track's fall meeting.

Emmy Darling to go for it

Emmy Darling, the winner of the Landaluce Stakes at Hollywood Park in June but winless in two stakes at Del Mar later in the summer, is being pointed for the $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf on Oct. 24, trainer John Sadler said.

Sadler said he was impressed by Emmy Darling's five-furlong turf workout in 1:03.60 at Santa Anita on Sunday. He timed Emmy Darling in 24 seconds for the final quarter-mile.

"I'm going to try that," Sadler said of the Juvenile Fillies Turf. "I think I'm going to come back and work her again on turf."

Owned by Ike and Dawn Thrash, Emmy Darling was third in the Sorrento Stakes and 10th in the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante on Sept.o1 in her most recent start.

Brandon Meier notches first stakes win

Apprentice jockey Brandon Meier won his first race at Santa Anita in Saturday's eighth race aboard High Investment ($18). Meier, 20, has 1 victory from 14 mounts in the first two weeks of the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting.

Meier is the son of Chicago veteran jockey Randall Meier. Brandon Meier has two mounts on Wednesday's eight-race program.

Sadler full of hope this weekend

Sadler has a chance to sweep the two stakes here this weekend - Saturday's $100,000 Harold Ramser Handicap for 3-year-old fillies on turf and Sunday's $75,000 Lure Stakes over a mile on turf.

In the Grade 3 Ramser, Sadler starts Tasha's Miracle, who was second in the Grade 2 San Clemente Handicap on July 26. She is winless in seven starts since the Grade 3 Sorrento Stakes at Del Mar in August 2007.

In the Lure, Sadler starts Becrux, the 6-year-old gelding who has won 9 of 30 starts and $1,007,487. Becrux was recently transferred to Sadler from Neil Drysdale.

Under Drysdale's direction, Becrux won races such as the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile in 2006 and the Wickerr Handicap at Del Mar in 2006 and 2007. Becrux was eighth in the Wickerr at Del Mar on July 25 in his last start.