09/01/2007 12:00AM

Midnight Lute takes over in Forego

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Bob Baffert said Midnight Lute belonged in the top 10 of horses he’s trained. Saturday, the 4-year-old colt showed why his trainer felt that way.

After stalking the pace set by Attila’s Storm and High Finance, Midnight Lute took control midway around the far turn and galloped home a 2 1/4-length winner over Benny the Bull in the Grade 1, $250,000 Forego Stakes at Saratoga. It was 9 1/4 lengths back to Attila’s Storm in third.

The final time of 1:21.06, when translated to fifths, equaled the stakes record of 1:21 at the seven-furlong distance set by Housebuster in 1991.

“He was very deserving of a Grade 1,” said Baffert, who trains Midnight Lute for Michael Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman. “He’s been a great horse from Day 1.”

Shaun Bridgmohan rode the winner, picking up the mount from Edgar Prado, who suffered an apparent ankle injury earlier on the card and who was taken to Albany Medical Center for evaluation.

Midnight Lute, a son of Real Quiet, had not raced since finishing fourth in the Grade 2 Commonwealth Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland in April. Midnight Lute had undergone two throat procedures in the interim to take care of a chronic breathing problem.

A mammoth-sized colt, Midnight Lute often has had trouble breaking from the starting gate. That was not the case Saturday as he broke alertly and took up a stalking position while Attila’s Storm and High Finance dueled through fractions of 22.86 seconds and 45.24.

Midnight Lute was three wide, galloped past the pacesetting tandem leaving the three-eighths pole, and was never challenged through the lane. He returned $7.20 as the second choice.

“The key was the break; this gate crew did a great job with him,” said Baffert, who has won 5 of 8 starts at this meet. “He got away clean. I told Shaun, ‘If he gets away from there, that’s the whole key – you’re going to have a fun ride on this horse.’ ”

Trainer Rick Violette said he didn’t mind seeing High Finance battling for the early lead. High Finance faded to eighth in the 10-horse field.

“He’s supposed to be there; 45 on this racetrack with these horses, that’s not a stupid pace,” Violette said. “He just had no fight; he never left Attila’s Storm. We’ll take a pretty good look at him today and in a couple of days and see if we find anything.”