Midnight Bisou nips Elate in Personal Ensign Stakes thriller

August 24, 2019 04:03pm

Saturday’s Grade 1, $700,000 Personal Ensign didn’t disappoint with a finish too close to call at first glance.

Midnight Bisou ultimately nosed out 
Elate with a first-to-last drive that will be talked about for some time at Saratoga.

Under jockey Mike Smith, Midnight Bisou took back to open proceedings, tipped out off the rail up the back stretch and began clawing back out wide. She chased Elate off the turn, then set up a thrilling stretch duel at the Spa.

“Beautiful day, beautiful setting and two great mares," said Steve Asmussen, who trains the winner for Bloom Racing Stable, Madaket Stables and Allen Racing.

The final time was 1:47.92 for nine furlongs as Midnight Bisou answered two big questions. She won her first 1 1/8-mile race and did so at Saratoga, where the daughter of Midnight Lute entered 0-for-2.

"With the extra four pounds there it took me a bit to get going, but once I got her going I was really happy that she handled the mile-and-an-eighth," Smith said. "I thought I got there at the wire, but there have been times before when I thought I did and didn't. You don't know the 'bob' exactly, but I felt like I got it anyway. I'm happy to know that I did.

This “Win and You’re In” victory for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff improved Midnight Bisou to 6-for-6 in 2019, all in graded stakes company. The score also put the filly firmly in the Horse of the Year conversation beside the likes of Bricks and Mortar, who’s also unbeaten this season.

“She didn’t run her best races here last summer," said Asmussen, who saddled Midnight Bisou for defeats in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) and Alabama (G1) at age 3. "But she came into it in great form, and for her to win here at Saratoga against Elate in the Personal Ensign at a mile and an eighth, checkmarks.”

As for Elate, it was another heartbreaking defeat in this race, with the margin back from Abel Tasman in the 2018 running a neck. A 5-year-old daughter of Medaglia d'Oro, Elate entered with back-to-back Grade 2 scores and could have ahead of her a try in either the Breeders' Cup Distaff or the Classic against males going 1 1/4 miles.

Elate earned 4-5 favoritism in the Personal Ensign, with Midnight Bisou off at 8-5. A 35-1 longshot, Coach Rocks, set the pace, opening up in 23.46 and 47.88 before the Top 2 ranged up out wide and took firm control.

"I don't see any big excuse right now," said Bill Mott, who trains Elate. "It was a good race. One jump before the wire we were a head in front. Maybe we'll have to keep her in training another year and try again. But she ran great. Both the top two fillies ran great.

"You know what, I have to give Steve (Asmussen) credit. He brought his filly to the race in good order and she's been running good. We have no excuse."

It was a ways backto She’s a Julie in third, while Wow Cat ran fourth in the field of six.


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