Last out maiden winners rarely win such prestigious races as the Santa Anita Derby (G-1), but that’s exactly what Midnight Interlude did just a few weeks after winning his first race. Traveling three to four wide in the Santa Anita Derby, the large, dark bay colt galloped along with the first set of pace pressers, never far off of the lead set by stamina challenged Comma To The Top. Midnight Interlude went widest of all on the far turn and had every right to fade in the stretch, but the Bob Baffert trainee kept going, despite having to steady slightly at the 1/8 pole to avoid a drifting Comma To The Top, and stuck his head in front at the wire. Midnight Interlude stopped the timer in 1:48.66, getting the last 1/8 in 12.61, which was fairly quick when one realizes he had to alter course slightly.
Midnight Interlude will travel to Kentucky as one of the most inexperienced horses in the race, with only four starts under his girth. His situation brings to mind another lightly raced colt who recently raced in the Derby. Eventual Horse of the Year Curlin won his maiden in February of 2007, and then was victorious in the Rebel (G-3) and Arkansas Derby before finishing a strong fourth in the 2007 Kentucky Derby. Midnight Interlude made his debut in January of this year, but needed three starts to get a win. Both Curlin and Midnight Interlude share the trait of being rapidly developing, talented horses. These types can perform well in the Classics if they have the pedigree to support their talent.
MIDNIGHT INTERLUDE (War Chant – Midnight Kiss, by Groom Dancer) a homebred owned by Arnold Zetcher, recently celebrated his April 3 foaling date, which explains his late development. His sire War Chat was a swift miller, who, like his son, made four starts before the Kentucky Derby. War Chat, a son of the legendary sire Danzig out of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff heroine Hollywood Wildcat, won the San Rafael, but was second in the Santa Anita Derby to The Deputy. In Kentucky, War Chant could muster no better than a ninth place finish against the 2000 Derby champ Fusaichi Pegasus. After his trainer Neil Drysdale wisely cut the colt back to a mile and switched him to the lawn, War Chant rewarded his connections with victories in the Oak Tree Mile (G-2) and the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G-1). War Chant went to the breeding shed after his Breeders’ Cup Mile victory.
War Chant has been fairly successful at stud. His son Chamberlain Bridge won last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. War Chant is also represented by Sunshine Millions Turf Stakes hero War Monger and Transylvania Stakes winner Chattahoochee War. War Chant’s offspring are slightly distance challenged. The majority are fine up to 1 1/16 miles, but he has produced only four winners at 1 1/8 miles and one winner at 1 ¼ miles, Flawless Treasure, heroine of the 2007 Sabin Stakes over the lawn.
Midnight Interlude’s damsire Groom Dancer, a son of Blushing Groom, was a multiple Group stakes winner in France. He was successful from the 7 ½ furlong (about) listed Prix Herod to the 1 ¼ miles (about) Prix Lupin (Gr. 1). Groom Dancer has spent his stud career abroad, first in France, then in Japan, Australia, where he sired Midnight Interlude’s dam, Midnight Kiss and finally in England. He sired about fifty stakes horses, including English and Italian Champions. As a broodmare sire, Groom Dancer’s daughters have produced three winners at Classic distances. Intriguingly, one of the three, Marshall, is bred along the same lines as Midnight Interlude, as his sire Anabaa is a son of Danzig.
War Chant has worked well with mares from the Blushing Groom sire line. Besides Midnight Interlude, this bloodline cross has produced the turf stakes horses War Kill, (G-2), Winsome, and Sleepless Knight. The Danzig/Blushing Groom cross has been prolific and very productive. The Champion mare Goldikova, Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf Champs Banks Hill and Intercontinental and Manhattan Handicap winner Cacique are all results of Danzig sires crossed with Blushing Groom mares.
Midnight Interlude is undoubtedly the most successful of the three foals produced by Midnight Kiss. Her son by Empire Maker has failed to win in four starts and her daughter by Point Given has only raced twice, winning once. Midnight Kiss was the best progeny produced by her dam the unraced Midnight Assembly. There is no notable blacktype in the first three generations of Midnight Interlude’s family. This female family is mainly European or Australian and hasn’t produced an American Classic winner.
Midnight Interlude appears to be a powerful, well conformed horse with the body of a router. His body type appears to favor that of his damsire, rather than the compact miler War Chant. Midnight Interlude has a ton of turf attributes in his pedigree, but seems to get over the dirt just fine with a long, efficient stride. His burst of speed at the end of the 1 1/8 mile Santa Anita Derby after pressing solid fractions suggests that he should be capable of handling 1 ¼ miles. His sire lends him the ability to quicken and the agility to avoid trouble, while his distaff line and damsire add the necessary stamina.
Midnight Interlude seems up against it, history wise. The only Kentucky Derby winner who didn’t race as a two year old was Apollo in 1892. The only horse to win the Derby with four starts was the filly Regret in 1915. Midnight Interlude seems up against it experience wise. Even Curlin, who had won his maiden in January couldn’t handle the Derby stampede and wound up fourth. However, like Curlin, perhaps Midnight Interlude can gain experience in the Kentucky Derby and use it as a springboard to a Championship later in the year.