Santa Anita Derby winner Midnight Interlude, who met trainer Bob Baffert’s expectations of success in his debut run over the surface, is aimed for taking another step up on grass in Saturday’s Grade II, $150,000 La Jolla Handicap.
Sent on the Triple Crown trail after his 14-1 upset in the Santa Anita Derby in April, Midnight Interlude disappointed with results of 16th of 19 in the Kentucky Derby and 13th of 14 in the Preakness Stakes. Baffert remarked at that time that he couldn’t wait to get the 3-year-old son of War Chant, the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner, on turf.
“He loved the dirt at Santa Anita but his Triple Crown races were atrocious,” Baffert said. “I was surprised he didn’t run a jump.”
Baffert waited until June 17 and the Tsunami Slew Handicap at Hollywood Park for a turf try and Midnight Interlude prevailed by a neck over Surrey Star and Temple’s Door, two of the six rivals Midnight Interlude will face in the La Jolla. The La Jolla, which is a sixteenth longer than the one-mile Tsunami Slew, also attracted Oceanside Stakes runner-up Burns and Lone Star Derby winner Thirtyfirststreet.
The La Jolla is the second of three major grass stakes for three-year-olds at the meeting and leads to the Grade II, $250,000 Del Mar Derby on September 4.
“I haven’t worked him on the turf here at all, so I don’t know how he’ll like it,” Baffert said Thursday morning. “He looks good in the mornings and this will set him up for the Derby at the end here.”
Midnight Interlude has worked three times on the Del Mar main track with a bullet 1:12 4/5 on July 28 the most notable effort.
Oceanside Stakes winner Mr. Commons, the likely La Jolla favorite, was not entered due to a foot bruise. Trainer John Shirreffs said the injury was not severe and the Del Mar Derby remains under consideration for Mr. Commons.