10/25/2008 12:00AM

Midnight Lute wins title defense


ARCADIA, Calif. - Trainer Bob Baffert called Midnight Lute the best horse he's ever trained following his runaway victory in the 2007 Breeders' Cup Sprint at Monmouth Park. One year later, that opinion has not changed.

Midnight Lute confirmed Baffert's assessment while also completing one of the great training jobs in Breeders' Cup history, rallying from last to a 1 3/4-length victory over Fatal Bullet in defense of his title in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Sprint Saturday at Santa Anita. In the process, Midnight Lute became the first back-to-back winner of the Sprint and first multiple winner in the 25-year history of the race. He also made his rider, Garrett Gomez, the first jockey ever to win three races on a single Breeders' Cup program.

Saturday's victory was the first for Midnight Lute since he won the BC Sprint last year at Monmouth. Nearly retired due to a hock injury this spring, Midnight Lute had only one start this year, finishing far back in the Pat O'Brien Handicap at Del Mar on Aug. 24 - a race during which he suffered a severe quarter crack on his left front foot.

"I've never had a horse like him," said Baffert, who trains Midnight Lute for the partnership of Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and the Weitman Performance LLC. "He showed today what a great horse he is. He's a beast. A massive, beautiful, horse. The perfect Thoroughbred. He's the best I've ever trained."

Only eight horses ran in the Sprint following the late scratch of Cost of Freedom, who was taken out by the stewards early Saturday morning after failing to pass a prerace physical. The eight-horse field made it the smallest in the history of the Sprint.

Midnight Lute, racing without blinkers for the first time, broke with the field and was quickly taken in hand by Gomez, dropping back to last in the run down the backstretch. Midnight Lute angled out to commence his rally on the turn, swung eight or nine paths wide into the stretch while gathering momentum, and readily ran by the game Fatal Bullet inside the eighth pole to win going away. Street Boss, the 2-1 favorite ridden by David Flores, rallied to finish another 1 3/4 lengths farther back in third.

"He settled nicely without the blinkers and I actually had to ask him to get the jump on Flores and Street Boss on the turn," said Gomez. "He's something else."

Midnight Lute ran the six furlongs in 1:07.08 over the Pro-Ride surface and paid $7.40.

"I think this win was even more special than last year," said Baffert. "There have been a lot of Breeders' Cup races, but the fans will remember this one. They'll remember Midnight Lute."