Friday, April 5, 2013

Oaks Contender: Midnight Lucky

Oaks Contenders feature the fillies I view as the best contenders leading up to the Kentucky Oaks. Each horse spotlighted in an Oaks Contender will join the 2013 PTG Oaks Contender roster, found on the right side of the blog. Horses will be listed in an order that corresponds to how highly I think of them, with the horse I think most highly of ranking at the top. A horse featured in an Oaks Contender may be taken off the roster if its performances after its article are published are not up to par or if that horse is taken off the Oaks trail, though those articles will remain on my blog.

Midnight Lute's pair of breathtaking Breeders' Cup Sprint (GI) triumphs are among the most impressive Breeders' Cup wins in recent years. But as there is with any new stallion, much doubt surrounded the beginning of Midnight Lute's stud career. Lucky for him, Midnight Lute has gotten off to a brilliant start, producing several horses that have made noise along the Triple Crown and Kentucky Oaks (GI) trails. Among those offspring is Midnight Lucky, a lightly raced but incredibly talented filly.

Unveiled to the racing world in mid-February of 2013, the gray filly was sent off as the heavy favorite for trainer Bob Baffert and owners Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman – the same connections that had campaigned her sire, Midnight Lute. Breaking from the rail in the six and one-half-furlong maiden special weight over Santa Anita Park’s main track, Midnight Lucky was urged to press the pace by jockey Rafael Bejarano, racing just behind the leader.

The charcoal gray filly inched closer to the pacesetter down the backstretch, cutting into that adversary’s lead around the far turn. With ease, Midnight Lucky soared to the lead midway through the curve, maintaining an ample lead as she charged into the straightaway. Geared down in the final stages of the race, the three-year-old crossed the wire 7 ¼ lengths ahead.

Midnight Lucky traveled to New Mexico for the Sunland Park Oaks, a race her trainer had already captured four times. Each of Baffert trainees that had previously obtained a victory in the race had done so handily: Tough Tiz’s Sis had won it by 3 ¾ lengths in 2007, Gabby’s Golden Gal by 13 in 2009, Plum Pretty (who would go on to win the Kentucky Oaks) by 25 in 2011, and Princess Arabella by 8 last year. The story was no different for Midnight Lucky.

Just as she had been in her maiden, Midnight Lucky was guided to the front-running contingent by Bejarano, pressing the pace set by Majestic River. After allowing Majestic River a narrow lead around the clubhouse turn, Midnight Lucky allowed the pacesetter to gain a slightly wider advantage as a blistering pace was set. But as the field approached the final turn, Midnight Lucky seized the lead, only lengthening her advantage as she coasted to the wire to win by 8 lengths.

Though Midnight Lucky’s final time of 1:41.06 was a new track record, it was one of three set that day. This insinuates that the speedy times recorded at Sunland that day are unreliable, but one cannot doubt Midnight Lucky’s brilliance and visual impressiveness.

Midnight Lucky's pedigree
Despite the fact that her sire, Midnight Lute, was never victorious beyond seven furlongs, he did miss winning at a mile and one-sixteenth by just a nose and was less than two lengths away from winning at nine furlongs in his only try at that distance. Considering Midnight Lucky is a member of Midnight Lute’s first crop, not many statistics exist regarding the champion sprinter’s ability to sire routers. However, he has produced Govenor Charlie – winner of the nine-furlong Sunland Derby (GIII) – and Mylute – a close runner-up in the nine-furlong Louisiana Derby (GII).

Midnight Lute’s ability to sire distance horses is enhanced by his sire, Real Quiet. A horse who missed winning the 1998 Triple Crown by a scant margin, Real Quiet produced the likes of Wonder Lady Anne L – a grade one winner at ten furlongs that finished the fourth in the 2006 Kentucky Oaks (which is contested at nine furlongs); Norman Asbjornson – a stakes winner at nine furlongs; and Bull Ranch – a stakes winner at eleven furlongs.

The dam of Midnight Lucky, Citiview, never found the winner’s circle but in addition to producing Midnight Lucky, the mare has yielded Songofthecity, a multiple stakes-placed runner that never won beyond six furlongs. A daughter of the black-type-winning Prospective Joy, Citiview is a full sister to the grade one-winning Hookedonthefeelin.

Midnight Lucky’s broodmare sire, Citidancer, produced Urbane – a multiple grade one winner that won at ten furlongs twice and was second in the 1995 Kentucky Oaks. Citidancer, a son of Dixieland Band, is also the dam sire of the likes of Suave – a graded stakes winner at ten furlongs and Worldly – a stakes winner at ten furlongs. The Real Quiet/Citidancer cross on which Midnight Lucky is bred is the same one that produced the grade one-winning Pussycat Doll and the stakes-winning Norman Asbjornson.

Although Midnight Lucky’s pedigree does not scream stamina
and she is rather unproven against top quality rivals, Midnight Lucky is clearly one of the most naturally talented sophomore fillies being prepared for this year’s Kentucky Oaks. She will have to contest against several brilliant fillies in the renowned race, but should her prowess be as great as it seems, Midnight Lucky could deliver a stellar performance on May 3.

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