03/01/2017 4:42PM

Midnight Storm headed to Santa Anita Handicap

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Barbara D. Livingston
Midnight Storm works six furlongs in 1:13.80 Saturday at Santa Anita.

ARCADIA, Calif. – The heavy lifting is done for Midnight Storm, who breezed super on Monday morning, came out of the work in top shape, and is expected to start favored March 11 in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap.

Majority owner Alex Venneri and trainer Phil D’Amato considered passing the Big Cap in favor of the Dubai World Cup on March 25, but early this week decided to stay home and try to make Grade 1 turf winner Midnight Storm a Grade 1 winner on dirt.

“We’re all set for the Big Cap,” D’Amato said Thursday. “It was our original plan. It’s his home track and a chance to win a Grade 1. To be accomplished as a Grade 1 winner on dirt and turf would be a nice feat.”

Rafael Bejarano will ride Midnight Storm, who will have an easy workout Sunday or Monday, pending weather.

“It will be just an easy five-eighths,” D’Amato said. “He’s had three big breezes with sub-1:40 mile gallop-outs, so he’s ready to go.”

Midnight Storm has won six of his last seven starts, and will enter the Big Cap having won 10 races and $1,461,110 from 21 starts. The 6-year-old is owned by Venneri and Little Red Feather Racing.

Aside from Midnight Storm, the probable starters include Follow Me Crev, Gangster, Hard Aces, Imperative, Twentytwentyvision, and possibly Isotherm and Shaman Ghost.

Texas Ryano, who won the Grade 2 Hollywood Turf Cup at 1 1/2 miles at Del Mar in November, is nominated for the Big Cap, but is more likely to start in the Grade 2 San Luis Rey Stakes, a $200,000 race at 1 1/2 miles on turf on March 25, trainer Carla Gaines said on Thursday.

Texas Ryano worked six furlongs in 1:14.40 at Santa Anita on Thursday morning.

El Huerfano, fourth in the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes on Feb. 4, is likely to pass the race, trainer Peter Miller said.

Santa Anita Handicap weight assignments are scheduled to be posted Saturday.

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen