What we learned: It's time to divorce Midnight Bourbon

What we learned: It's time to divorce Midnight Bourbon
Photo: Amanda Hodges Weir/Hodges Photography

Chasing Midnight Bourbon on top has been an addiction for many horse bettors, including this one. After Saturday’s runner-up performance in the Louisiana Stakes (G3) at Fair Grounds, it is time to take a “divorce” from Midnight Bourbon and limit the colt to underneath spots only.

Even with an uncontested lead, a slight cutback in distance, easy fractions, blinkers added and on Lasix, Midnight Bourbon found a way to lose.

As seen in the replay, Midnight Bourbon headed to the front to establish his uncontested lead by the first turn, with Sprawl near him in second and Pirate’s Punch wide in the three path. In the meantime, Mandaloun saved ground and chased along the inside in third.

On the backside, Midnight Bourbon created separation from Sprawl and Mandaloun while setting initial fractions of 24.39 and 48.25.

Most good speed horses convert that kind of first half into a win. 

As Midnight Bourbon led the field into the start of the second turn, Mandaloun began to inch closer and Sprawl began to fade. Warrant and Pirate’s Punch were still several lengths behind, and Spa City was last.

When Mandaloun ranged up alongside Midnight Bourbon by the top of the stretch, the tide went in his direction. Perhaps Midnight Bourbon could repel the bid, but his well-known habit of finishing second or third throughout last season meant he needed to change and get tougher. Instead, Midnight Bourbon started to lose his lead.

Under urging from Florent Geroux, Mandaloun eventually won the stretch battle and hit the wire 3/4 of a length ahead of his old rival.

Mandaloun’s final time of 1:42.52 was over a second faster than Call Me Midnight’s 1:44.36 for winning the Lecomte Stakes (G3) one race later. For the win, Mandaloun also earned an impressive 106 Beyer Speed Figure.

Obviously, the future is bright for Mandaloun. If he can stay healthy this season, he will remain one of the top dirt routers around. Given last year's runner-up finish in the Kentucky Derby, distance is not a concern.

Since Midnight Bourbon lost by only 3/4 of a length to a horse that posted a 106 Beyer Speed Figure, he also ran a fast race in defeat. But even though Midnight Bourbon loses by small margins to quality horses, he has become poison on top at the top of tickets. He teases good efforts while never following up with a win, and that is the kind of horse to avoid for the win. 

There is probably nothing else that can make Midnight Bourbon more attractive on top. It is time to settle on a betting divorce from this handsome colt and wait for him to prove himself as a winner again.  

Call Me Midnight mows down Epicenter in Lecomte

Trainer Steve Asmussen lost the Lecomte Stakes (G3) with another pacesetter in Epicenter, who was the single in this blog's pick 4. Instead, the closing Call Me Midnight made up enough ground to catch him.

Even though Epicenter lost, he did everything else right.

At the start, Epicenter took the lead from Surfer Dude past the first turn. 

The fractions of 23.40 and 47.01 were quick compared with the Louisiana Stakes, but they were not suicidal. Epicenter appeared comfortable. 

Blue Kentucky followed the pair in a stalking position.

A gap separated Blue Kentucky from Trafalgar, Pappacap and Cyberknife in mid-pack. Unified Report ran right behind the trio, and then another gap separated him from Call Me Midnight in eighth and Presidential in last.

On the second turn, Epicenter still held the lead, although Surfer Dude, Blue Kentucky, Cyberknife and Pappacap surrounded him at this point. Pappacap attempted to move through the inside, but he could not pass and ended up in a battle with Epicenter for the lead at the top of the stretch.

Call Me Midnight started to unwind from the back. The camera initially did not show him until the angle changed when they hit the top of the stretch.

To Epicenter’s credit, he responded well to Pappacap’s challenge and maintained a small advantage in mid-stretch. But Call Me Midnight came charging on the outside with a steady run, and suddenly he became a major threat. The only question was whether Call Me Midnight had enough time to catch Epicenter before the wire, and he barely did.

At long-shot odds of 28-1, Call Me Midnight won the Lecomte by a head over Epicenter with an 88 Beyer Speed Figure. It gave him his second win in seven starts and provided him with 10 Kentucky Derby points.

As stated earlier, Call Me Midnight did not exactly run lightning fast in victory, with only a 1:44.36 final time. He also took advantage of a lively pace as a closer from the back. Nevertheless, he is one to watch as the Derby trail moves forward.

Epicenter ran well in defeat. Look at where his pace opponents ended up. Surfer Dude folded to last by 31 lengths after Epicenter put him away again, while Blue Kentucky faded to seventh by 12 1/2 lengths. Given the early pace, Epicenter still deserves consideration next time.

Pappacap cost bettors a ton of win money at 3-2. When the public sees a Breeders’ Cup race in the running lines, they tend to overbet the horse and this case seems like a classic example. His now four-race losing streak with the Lecomte loss also poses a concern for bettors whenever he runs next. Despite those observations, Pappacap ran decently in the stretch.

Call me Midnight, Epicenter and Pappacap can make the Kentucky Derby. But all three runners need to take a step forward next time.   

Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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