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Past the Grandstand

Breeders' Cup Flashback: Midnight Lute

Midnight Lute 615 X 400
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
As rain fell from the sky, the dirt track at Monmouth Park was transformed into an oval of mud soup for the 2007 Breeders’ Cup. The dismal weather certainly put a damper on the crowd but no matter how gloomy the weather was, it could not hinder the thrill of the world-class racing taking place at the New Jersey racetrack.

At the conclusion of the first championship race to be run on that Breeders’ Cup Saturday, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert could have left with a smile on his face, as he had captured the Juvenile Fillies with Indian Blessing. But he had not finished. A few races later, he saddled the favorite for the Sprint, Midnight Lute. The 17 hands high beast, who had last won the Forego Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga, had always been a special horse in the eyes of Baffert, but this race would prove just how exceptional he was.

Midnight Lute exited the gate in a slow manner, racing near the rear of the field as the Thoroughbreds splashed through the mud. Mud sprayed Midnight Lute’s face, splattering his near-black coat as he raced nearly nine lengths off the leader down the backstretch. 
Gradually, Midnight Lute began to make up ground as the horses made their way into the far turn. Advancing along the inside around the curve, Garrett Gomez was forced to swing his mount to the outside when Midnight Lute’s massive frame could not fit through an opening on the rail.

As a torrent of mud flying from the hooves of his rivals flew into Midnight Lute’s face, disguising him as he rallied along the outside, the son of Real Quiet kicked into a gear no competitor could match. Accelerating in breathtaking fashion, Midnight Lute surpassed his rivals as if they were standing still. With stunning ease, he drew away to score by 4 ¾ lengths – the largest margin of victory in the history of the race.

After a runner-up effort in the Cigar Mile Handicap (gr. I) a month later, Midnight Lute was honored as the Eclipse Champion Male Sprinter of 2007. He was prepared to make his 2008 debut in the Palos Verdes Handicap (gr. II), but after skipping that race, he was readied for the San Carlos Handicap (gr. II) a month later. Instead, a minor hock injury kept Midnight Lute away from the races until August, when he returned in the Pat O’Brien Handicap (gr. I) at Del Mar.

But when Midnight Lute finished a very disappointing tenth as the heavy favorite in the Pat O’Brien, it appeared as if the brilliant sprinter that had captured the Breeders’ Cup Sprint in such a spectacular manner the previous year was a horse of the past. However, it was revealed that Midnight Lute had grabbed a quarter at the start of the race and the horse was nonetheless prepared for a defense of his Breeders’ Cup Sprint title.

Baffert, who removed Midnight Lute’s blinkers following the Pat O’Brien, remained confident in the horse he had always thought so highly of. But not only would Midnight Lute have to return to form in order to win his second consecutive Sprint, history was racing against him as well. No horse had ever won the Sprint twice and seven winners had attempted the same feat without success.

Facing seven opponents in his second Sprint, Midnight Lute had home track advantage, competing over Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride surface – over which, although he had never won, he had never finished worse than fourth. In similar fashion as the previous year, Midnight Lute departed the starting gate rather sluggishly, trailing the field as the horses galloped from the chute and into the backstretch.

Racing several paths off the rail, Midnight Lute began to make his move as the sprinters approached the far turn. Staying to the outside, the large horse quickened his pace as he went widest of all around the final bend. Using his impressively long strides, Midnight Lute advanced rapidly on the outside as he set his sights on the front. Displaying the same remarkable turn of foot he had at Monmouth Park, Midnight Lute engulfed his adversaries as he kicked clear to win by 1 ¾. In electrifying style, Midnight Lute had not only completed the fastest ever Breeders’ Cup Sprint, posting a final time of 1:07.08, but the magnificent horse had become the only horse to win the Sprint twice.

Perhaps the happiest person after Midnight Lute’s second consecutive Sprint triumph was his trainer, Bob Baffert. One of the most recognizable figures in racing, Baffert has trained his fair share of brilliant horses: Triple Crown near-misses Point Given, Real Quiet, Silver Charm, and War Emblem and Hall of Fame mare Silverbulletday among them. But after both of Midnight Lute’s Sprint victories, a euphoric Baffert declared Midnight Lute the best horse he has ever trained.

Midnight Lute – who has since become a fantastic sire, currently ranking second among the leading second-crop sires of 2013 – achieved what no horse before him was capable of accomplishing. Not only did he set three records in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, holding records for final time and winning margin, as well as becoming the only horse to capture it twice, but he left an impression on Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert that no other horse has. The story of Midnight Lute is a tale of love and respect a trainer had for one special horse that possessed rare and awe-inspiring brilliance, which carried him to a pair of championship victories racing fans – and Baffert – won’t soon forget.


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Older Comments about Breeders' Cup Flashback: Midnight Lute...

An awesome story of HoF. History.
One of the most impressive sprint wins ever.As they were approaching the top of the stretch,he had to be taken up sharply.Amazing how he did not go down.Then arguably,The great racecaller Trevor Dedmons greatest line other than "ON THE GRANDSTAND SIDE" .Trevor gave Aminos and my favorite call.He said that Midnite "LOOKED AS THOUGH HE STEPPED ON THE TRACK AT THE QUARTER POLE. Classic Trvor for a Classic Horse.
I for one, was VERY IMPRESSED with whomever was responsible for Monmouth's track maintenance for that series of races. They should have gotten a special award but the fatality must have outshown the excellent job og normalizing that surface in the face of that weather onslaught.
He was one huge speedball. Both Sprints were fantastic, and Bob gave the misses a couple of pats on the bum when he won his first. Love that video of them celebrating.
That was some weekend at Monmouth Park. Midnight Lute's performance ranks at the top of all BC Sprints.

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About Mary Cage


Mary with champion Classic Empire

Mary Cage, a 21-year-old avid fan of horse racing, has been around horses all her life, having owned, shown, and judged them for as long as she can remember. She began writing her own horse racing blog, Past the Grandstand, in August 2011 and has since been published in America's Horse, American Racehorse and the Appaloosa Journal, as well as with the websites of The Blood-Horse and The Equine Chronicle. She has also had photos published with Paulick Report and Thoroughbred Daily News. In addition, she works as one of the social media coordinators for the Texas Thoroughbred Association and has interned at WinStar Farm with a marketing focus - with projects involving photography, videography, giving tours, data entry, etc. 

In her personal horse experience, Mary has been around horses all her life and has won several Appaloosa National Champion and Reserve World Champion titles in the show ring. She has also worked as a hotwalker and groom.

Mary has always aspired to have a career with horses and since her love for horse racing began, she has dreamed of pursuing a career in the Thoroughbred racing industry, possibly as a writer/photographer and marketing/communications specialist. She is currently attending the University of North Texas, where she is a journalism major with a concentration in advertising and a minor in marketing. With this blog, she hopes to show readers horse racing through the eyes of a young fan and transport you to some of racing's biggest events through her photos and words.

University of Louisville College of Business Equine Program

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