03/24/2013 8:46PM

Sunland Oaks produces dazzling performance by Midnight Lucky

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Coady Photography
Midnight Lucky cruises to an eight-length win under Rafael Bejarano in the Sunland Oaks.

SUNLAND PARK, N.M. – It was her first race against winners, around two turns, in a stakes race, and away from her home.

And it all mattered not a bit.

In a crushing performance that stamped her as one of the elite candidates for the Kentucky Oaks on May 4, the dazzling 3-year-old filly Midnight Lucky rolled to an eight-length win in track-record time on Sunday when defeating seven outmatched rivals in the $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks.

“Oh my God,” jockey Rafael Bejarano said after dismounting.

That’s what just about everyone else watching moments earlier probably said. Midnight Lucky volleyed with Majestic River for the lead for the first half of the 1 1/16-mile race, effortlessly took command on the far turn, and then drew clear with Bejarano sitting motionless.

Unusual Way, like Midnight Lucky an invader from Southern California, finished second, 4 1/2 lengths in front of Countess Curlin.

Infinitely was fourth and was followed, in order, by Fradulentfootnote, Canticle, Majestic River, and Shesatopattraction.

Midnight Lucky completed 1 1/16 miles on the fast track in 1:41.06, which bested the previous track record by 0.85 of a second on a day when the track was lightning fast. Earlier in the card, a track record for 6 1/2 furlongs was set, and then a track record was set for 1 1/8 miles by Govenor Charlie in the Sunland Derby.

Regardless, what Midnight Lucky did was special. All she had done prior to Sunday was win a maiden race at Santa Anita, going 6 1/2 furlongs, in her debut on Feb. 16. The race was so impressive that Midnight Lucky was sent off the heavy, odds-on favorite. She paid $2.60 for $2 to win.

“She’s freaky. I was hoping she’d do something like that,” her trainer, Bob Baffert, said from his home in California, where he watched the race. Assistant Jim Barnes was here to saddle Baffert’s runners, including Govenor Charlie.

The Sunland Oaks was worth 50 points to the winner under the rules put in place this year by Churchill Downs to determine eligibility to the Kentucky Oaks. It will be more than enough to get Midnight Lucky into the field.

“It’s a big step, but she’s got a lot of natural ability,” Baffert said of Midnight Lucky. “She’s got that brilliance.”

 

Midnight Lucky is by Midnight Lute and is out of the Citidancer mare Citiview, a full sister to stakes-winning filly Hookonthefeelin. Both Midnight Lute and Hookedonthefeelin raced for Mike Pegram, who purchased Midnight Lucky as a yearling for $220,000 with partners Karl Watson and Paul Weitman.