Santa Anita Derby winner Midnight Interlude continues his promising
career as a grass runner Saturday when heading a full field of 14
three-year-olds in Santa Anita’s Grade II, $150,000 Oak Tree Derby at 1
1/8 miles on turf.
Trained by Bob Baffert, Arnold Zetcher’s homebred son of War
Chant is coming off an ultra-game effort in the Grade II Del Mar Derby
on Sept. 4 when a nose bob at the wire gave the nod to Glen Hill Farm’s
Banned following a stretch-long duel.
Rafael Bejarano will be back aboard the bay colt who has run
well in three turf competitions after failing to be a factor in both the
Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes earlier this year.
Bejarano joined Midnight Interlude in his grass debut, a victory
in Hollywood Park’s Tsunami Slew Stakes on June 17. They were beaten by
1¼ lengths when a troubled fourth in Del Mar’s Grade II La Jolla
Handicap won by Burns on Aug. 13. Next came the narrow defeat after
setting the Del Mar Derby pace.
“I was blocked in the stretch in the La Jolla,” recalled
Bejarano. “The horse can run either way, on the lead or from just off
the pace. He’s good either way. He’s shown a big heart in the stretch.”
Midnight Interlude will take earnings of $751,910 into the Oak
Tree Derby from a record of 3-2-1 in nine starts. Should the probable
favorite fail on Saturday, solace can be taken in the race’s history.
John Henry finished third in the 1978 Oak Tree Derby; Cigar ran second
This year’s primary “stranger danger” would appear to be French
import Venomous. Set to make his United States debut with Joel Rosario
in the saddle, Venomous came within two lengths of capturing a pair of
Group I events in France this spring and summer.
Trained by Tony Clout for Magalen O. Bryant, the British-bred
son of Red Ransom has posted a 2-0-5 record in 11 starts, all in France,
for earnings of $173,531. Following the Oak Tree Derby, Venomous will
be transferred to the local stable of Leonard Powell.
Cloud Man, trained by John Shirreffs for Jerry and Ann Moss,
rates consideration on Saturday. He was beaten by only one length in the
Del Mar Derby while rallying for fourth. He lost by a nose to Burns in
an allowance event at Hollywood Park in June.
The homebred offspring of 1995 Kentucky Derby winner Thunder
Gulch will be ridden by Mike Smith. Cloud Man owns a record of 2-2-1 in
six starts. He has earned $133,440.
The remainder of the bountiful field includes Grade II Swaps
Stakes winner Dreamy Kid, a competitive sixth in the Del Mar Derby; Lil
Bit O’Fun, who missed by a neck to Burns when second in the La Jolla
Handicap; newcomer Northern Causeway, fresh off a victory in the Group
III British Columbia Derby at Hastings Park, and Thirtyfirststreet, who
won the $200,000 Lone Star Derby in May.
The complete field for the Oak Tree Derby, with jockeys and
weights in post position order: Great Warrior, Omar Berrio, 118;
Northern Causeway, William Antongeorgio III, 122; Venomous, Joel
Rosario, 118; Arraignment, Daniel Vergara, 118; Dreamy Kid, Martin
Garcia, 122; Thirtyfirststreet, Patrick Valenzuela, 120; Lil Bit O’Fun,
David Flores, 120; Ultimate Eagle, Martin Pedroza, 118; Akkadian, Brice
Blanc, 118; Theresmyeverything, Aaron Gryder, 118; Cozy Kitten, Alonso
Quinonez, 118; Cloud Man, Mike Smith, 118; Midnight Interlude, Rafael
Bejarano, 122, and Surrey Star, Chantal Sutherland, 120.