03/05/2018 10:24AM

Sparkman: Midnight Lute enjoys big weekend

Benoit Photo
Midnight Bisou, a daughter of Midnight Lute, wins the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes at Santa Anita on Saturday.

Good racehorses come in all shapes and sizes, but on average the breed tends toward the 16-hand average height. At the same time, though, buyers tend to prefer big, mature horses at yearling and 2-year-old sales, which can give the progeny of larger stallions an early advantage.

That being said, super-sized stallions can be at a long-term disadvantage because their progeny often prove more difficult to keep sound because they are simply too heavy for their legs to support. Midnight Lute, one of the biggest horses to go to stud in the last decade, has largely overcome that obstacle, and two of his daughters won stakes last Saturday when Midnight Bisou captured the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes at Santa Anita just hours after Midnight Disguise won the Busher Stakes at Aqueduct.

Bred in Kentucky by Trackside Farm’s Tom Evans, Macon Wilmil Equine, and Marjac Farm, Midnight Lute was by far the best horse sired by 1998 champion 3-year-old male and Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Real Quiet. Sold for $70,000 as a yearling to agent Tom McGreevey, Midnight Lute was purchased privately by Mike Pegram and Watson and Weitman Performances after failing to reach his reserve at a hammer price of $290,000 at the 2005 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co.’s March sale.

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Midnight Lute raced only 13 times over four seasons, but that infrequent schedule had little to do with his 17-1 hand frame. After winning his only start at 2 in fast time at Del Mar, he endured two throat operations before re-emerging at 3 to win the Grade 3 Perryville Stakes at Keeneland and run second in the Grade 1 Malibu at Santa Anita. He underwent a third throat surgery at 4 before hitting his best stride with victories in the Grade 1 Forego and the Breeders’ Cup Sprint over Monmouth’s flooded track. That earned him the Eclipse Award as champion sprinter of 2007.

Midnight Lute raced only twice more. Tenth in his comeback race in August 2008, the Grade 2 Pat O’Brien at Del Mar, Midnight Lute proved his brilliance once again by winning the Breeder’s Cup Sprint, this time under far different conditions at Santa Anita.

Retired to John Sikura’s Hill ‘n’ Dale in 2009, he made a very quick start at stud with Grade 1 winners Shakin It Up (out of Silver Bullet Moon, by Vindication) and Midnight Lucky (Citiview, by Citidancer); Queen’s Plate winner Midnight Aria (Shebandowana, by Mt. Magazine); and eight other stakes winners in his first crop. Like many young stallions in the big-book era, however, his production dropped off over his next few crops as breeders moved on to newer, shinier stars.

Midnight Lute’s ubsequent crops have not produced more Grade 1 winners, but his third crop included Canadian champion Midnight Miley (Moneybru, by Talk Is Money), and he has become a consistent producer of graded stakes horses like Grade 2 Los Alamitos Derby winner Gimme da Lute (Casino Gold, by Proud Citizen) and Grade 3 Sham Stakes winner Midnight Hawk (Miss Wineshine, by Wolf Power).

Midnight Bisou has shown the potential to become Midnight Lute’s third top-level winner. The Santa Ysabel was her second consecutive graded win following her maiden victory in the Grade 2 Santa Ynez. She was being beaten a nose in her first two starts by Grade 1 winner Dream Tree.

Bred in Kentucky by Woodford Thoroughbreds, Midnight Bisou failed to meet her reserve at only $19,000 at the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale, and sold for $80,000 to Allen Racing and Bloom Racing Stable, Jeffrey Bloom, agent, at the 2017 OBS April Sale.

Midnight Bisou is the third foal and first winner out of 2010 Grade 3 Florida Oaks winner Diva Delite, by Repent. The mare has since produced an unraced 2-year-old named Stage Left, by Congrats, who sold for only $15,000 to Wesley Ward, Cromwell, agent at the 2017 Keeneland September sale, and a yearling colt by Warrior’s Reward. She was covered by Wicked Strong in 2017.

Bred in Florida by Clover Leaf Farms II, Diva Delite won 4 of 11 starts at 2, all for trainer Ian Wilkes, and strung together wins in Tampa Bay’s Gasparilla, Suncoast, and Florida Oaks at 3 before finishing third in the Grade 2 Beaumont at Keeneland. Her promising career ended when she clipped heels and fell in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico.

Diva Delite’s dam, stakes-placed Tour Hostess, by Tour d’Or, produced nothing else of note, but is half-sister to stakes winner Bay Street Gal, by Marco Bay. As those rather obscure sires imply, it is not a family noted for producing graded stakes winners.

Overall Midnight Lute has now sired 25 stakes winners from 577 foals age 3 and up, a 4.3% strike rate.