11/27/2016 8:51PM

Midnight Storm cruises in Native Diver Stakes

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Benoit & Associates
Midnight Storm and jockey Mike Smith win the Native Diver Stakes by 7 3/4 lengths Saturday.

DEL MAR, Calif. – Midnight Storm opened more avenues for his 2017 campaign and enhanced his value as a potential stallion by virtue of his front-running victory in the Grade 3, $100,690 Native Diver Stakes on Sunday at Del Mar.

Midnight Storm has done most of his racing on turf and owns multiple graded stakes wins, including the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile. But the Native Diver marked his first graded stakes win on dirt, a significant milestone for this son of Pioneerof the Nile.

“It’s important for two reasons,” said Phil D’Amato, who trains Midnight Storm, 5, for the partnership of Alex Venneri and the Little Red Feather Racing syndicate. “As a stallion, it helps that he has graded stakes wins on turf and dirt, and down the road, it gives us more opportunities for next year.”

D’Amato said Midnight Storm would stay in training at age 6.

Midnight Storm ($5.20), the favorite, controlled the pace throughout. He secured the lead immediately, then kicked clear through the lane to win by 7 3/4 lengths. Point Piper outfinished Hard Aces by a head for second.

Blue Tone was fourth and was followed by Pretentious, Imperative, and Ebadan.

The win was the ninth in 20 starts for Midnight Storm, who has won four of his last five starts, his lone loss in that streak a third-place finish behind Tourist and Tepin in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. He has now earned $1,341,110.

Mike Smith picked up the mount late in the day. Flavien Prat was scheduled to ride, but he took off his last three mounts. Prat was thrown to the ground at the start of race 3 when his mount, We Got Now, stumbled badly. Prat was cleared to ride by first-aid but prior to his remaining three mounts noticed blood in his urine and took off.

He was taken by his agent, Derek Lawson, to Scripps La Jolla Hospital and was admitted for overnight observation.

"He has to spend the evening in the hospital to keep an eye on the bleeding that is in his urine," Lawson said.

The track was listed as “good” after rain Saturday into Sunday. It was tiring toward the end of the card. Midnight Storm needed 1:51.59 to cover 1 1/8 miles, which means everyone else took at least 1:53.

“It got really oatmealy, which was kind of a concern, but when I saw some horses winning with his style, it made me more at ease,” D’Amato said.

Earlier on the card, two horses – Trixie Topper in race 1 and Trump Diesel in race 5 – suffered lower-leg injuries that were so catastrophic that both had to be euthanized.