Jeff Bloom chose his words wisely. He even admitted so much in an interview for last week’s edition of The 2020 Special, previewing a big star making her comeback on Stephen Foster Day Saturday at Churchill Downs.
“We’ve been saying this from the get-go, too, it’s all about getting that Breeders’ Cup victory for her this year,” Bloom said. “How do we do that in the best way possible in light of changes to racing’s schedules, and I think we have a pretty good path now.”
Of course Bloom spoke about Midnight Bisou, who made light work of her comeback opponents in Saturday’s Grade 2 Fleur de Lis at Churchill. The 5-year-old Midnight Lute mare won by 8 1/4 lengths without any serious threat, winning for the first time in three starts at Churchill and adding the $200,000 event to a dozen other stakes wins.
Midnight Bisou, last year’s champion older dirt female, heads to Saratoga next for a likely start and defense of her title in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign on the Aug. 1 Whitney Day card. After that, well, wait and see.
“Notice I said Breeders’ Cup,” Bloom added last week when asked if the $6 million Classic could be in the cards. “I’ll just leave it at Breeders’ Cup. You certainly wouldn’t rule anything out. The Breeders’ Cup is the goal.”
Bloom campaigns Midnight Bisou in his Bloom Racing Stable colors along with Madaket Stables and Allen Racing. Midnight Bisou’s runner-up finish in the $20 million Saudi Cup in late February, behind Maximum Security and ahead of some of the best North American males in training, gives Bloom reason for considering the 1 1/4-mile Classic Nov. 7 at Keeneland.
“It doesn’t hurt,” Bloom said of Midnight Bisou’s proven run against the boys. “We always felt she was up to that level, that’s why she went over there. At this point, and not to be too ambiguous, ultimately the goal is the Breeders’ Cup and whatever that ends up being, whatever spot that ends up being, it will be what is the right spot for her.”
Saturday’s Fleur de Lis certainly proved to be the right spot as Midnight Bisou tracked in third early behind last year’s Kentucky Oaks winner Serengeti Empress and eventual runner-up Motion Emption. She took over in a flash turning for home and rolled to an easy win in 1:48.99 for the 9 furlongs. Trained by Steve Asmussen and ridden by Mike Smith, Midnight Bisou improved to 13-for-21 and padded her bankroll to $7,371,520.
Midnight Bisou’s dismantling of the Fleur de Lis came immediately before Tom’s d’Etat did the same in the headlining Grade 2 Stephen Foster. (At left, Coady Photography)
Miguel Mena subbed for Joel Rosario, who stayed in New York to ride champion Uni in the Grade 1 Just A Game, and Tom’s d’Etat won his fourth straight for owners G M B Racing and trainer Al Stall Jr.
“I knew he was a lot of fun to ride him in the morning but didn’t realize how much fun he was in the afternoon,” Mena said. “I owe everything to Al for giving me the opportunity to ride such an impressive horse. He was going along so easy and I just asked him for his attention a little bit at the top of the lane and I didn’t even have to really step on the gas.”
Tom’s d’Etat also heads to Saratoga with the Breeders’ Cup Classic the long-range goal. Stall said the Grade 1 Whitney Aug. 1 would be next for the 7-year-old son of Smart Strike, who is 3-for-4 in his career at Saratoga, the lone blemish a close loss in the Grade 1 Woodward last year.
Tom’s d’Etat just missed Victory Gallop’s track record of 1:47.28, set winning the 1999 Foster, winning by 4 1/4 lengths in 1:47.30.
“It was just an unbelievable day on Saturday,” Stall said Sunday. “To draw off like that, and almost break the track record, was unreal. He ran a sub 36-second final three-eighths. You don’t see many route horses in the country that are able to do that, especially as geared down as he was in the final stages.”
The Foster Day card featured two other stakes – the Grade 3 Bashford Manor, won by Stonestreet Stable’s Cazadero for Asmussen, and the Grade 3 Regret, won by Harvey’s Lil Goil for trainer Bill Mott and the Estate of Harvey Clarke and Paul Braverman.
Asmussen topped Churchill’s spring-summer meet standings with 17 wins, one more than Brad Cox, and $1,112,065 in purses. Tyler Gaffalione won the riding title with 31 wins and $1,711,573 in purses and Ken and Sarah Ramsey led the owners by wins with five and G M B Racing led the owners by purses with $368,532.
Weekend stakes notes: The four stakes at Belmont Park Saturday held fairly true to form, with the exception coming when Penn National shipper Victim Of Love upset the Grade 3 Vagrancy Handicap at 27-1. Owned by Tommy Town Thoroughbreds and trained by Todd Beattie, Victim Of Love defeated odds-on choice Come Dancing by 1 3/4 lengths.
Favorites or second choices won the other three stakes – Alex Campbell Jr.’s homebred Mean Mary in the Grade 2 New York for trainer Graham Motion and jockey Luis Saez, Mr. Amore Stable’s homebred Firenze Fire in the Grade 2 True North for trainer Kelly Breen and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. and Klaravich Stable’s Newspaperofrecord in the Grade 1 Just A Game for trainer Chad Brown and Ortiz. …
Raise the BAR Racing’s Dean Martini, making his second start off the claim and drawing in from the also-eligible list, upset Saturday’s Grade 3 Ohio Derby by three-quarters of a length from South Bend at 14-1. Trained by Tom Amoss, the 3-year-old Cairo Prince gelding earned 20 points toward a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate with the victory, his second along with a $50,000 maiden claimer May 17 at Churchill. Storm The Court, last year’s champion 2-year-old male, finished 2 lengths behind the runner-up in the third spot.
Handicapper’s Report (flat edition): John Shapazian continued to set the pace for The 2020 Special’s handicappers in their spring-summer competition leading up to the Saratoga meet. John picked 11 winners from the 22 races Saturday, including seven at Churchill. He leads the quartet with a record of 104-for-292, a sharp 35.6 percent strike rate.
Tom Law finished in the second spot Saturday with 10 wins, including six at Churchill, and improved to 92-for-292 (31.5 percent). He trailed Charles Bedard, who picked seven winners at Churchill and nine for the day, by a single victory. Charles’ record stands at 93-for-292 (31.8 percent). Rob Whitlock picked five winners Saturday and goes into next week 76-for-292 (26 percent).
Handicapper’s Report (jump edition): The steeplechasers were in action again Saturday for the Virginia Gold Cup meeting at Great Meadow.
Tom Law came away the big winner among The Special’s steeplechase handicappers with four winners – Lonely Weekend in the second, Snap Decision in the fifth, Fast Car in the seventh and Shark Du Berlais in the ninth.
Sean Clancy picked two winners – Lonely Weekend and Snap Decision – and Joe Clancy singled with Lonely Weekend.
Tom and Sean are tied at the top with five on the season with Joe third with four.