Mid­night In­ter­lude a win­ner

Matamata Chronicle - - Motoring - DEN­NIS RYAN Rac­ing colum­nist

While Mata­mata trainer Karyn McQuade was sad­dling her lat­est win­ner, Ly­dian Prince at Ro­torua last Fri­day, on the other side of the world a horse with a di­rect link to her sta­ble was be­ing touted as a lead­ing can­di­date for one of the world’s most fa­mous races, the Ken­tucky Derby.

The horse in ques­tion is the Cal­i­for­nian-trained three-year-old Mid­night In­ter­lude, who en­tered cal­cu­la­tions for the Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs on May 7 when he won last week’s US$1 mil­lion Santa Anita Derby. Mid­night In­ter­lude is a son of the for­mer McQuade-trained filly Mid­night Kiss, who was sold to the United States af­ter fin­ish­ing third in the 2004 New Zealand Oaks.

Mid­night Kiss’s rac­ing ca­reer spanned just four starts, be­gin­ning with a de­but sec­ond on her home track in late 2003, fol­lowed by a 1900-me­tre maiden vic­tory at Ro­torua and an­other over 2170 me­tres at Tau­ranga, all in the space of a month. Ten days af­ter that sec­ond win she stamped her class in her one re­main­ing start when fin­ish­ing third in the coun­try’s most sig­nif­i­cant race for three-year-old fil­lies, the New Zealand Oaks over 2400 me­tres at Tren­tham.

That form in­evitably at­tracted the at­ten­tion of blood­stock agents and af­ter go­ing through ve­teri­nary ex­am­i­na­tions and other for­mal­i­ties, the de­ci­sion was made by Mid­night Kiss’s Auck­land own­ers to sell her to Cal­i­for­nian in­ter­ests for $800,000. Sadly, she was never to race again af­ter suf­fer­ing leg is­sues when put into work soon af­ter her ar­rival on the North Amer­i­can west coast.

‘‘It was a real shame that she didn’t get the chance to show what she was made of,’’ re­flects her for­mer trainer.

‘‘She was a lovely filly with a ton of abil­ity. I used to love rid­ing her work, she was un­be­liev­able the way she would just cruise along and as you asked her to she would click up through the gears.’’

‘‘I still think that with a more thor­ough prepa­ra­tion she could have won the Oaks. She struck some foot prob­lems be­fore her first start raced and as things turned out we were a month be­hind. She came up against a good one in Calveen for her first start and we re­alised when we stepped her up to a mid­dle-dis­tance and she won next time out that we might have an Oaks filly on our hands.

‘‘Back then the New Zealand Oaks was run in Jan­uary, two months ear­lier than these days, and I still won­der what might have been if we’d had that ex­tra time to play with.’’

It’s a source of im­mense plea­sure, there­fore, that Mid­night Kiss’s abil­ity has been trans­mit­ted to the next gen­er­a­tion.

Mid­night In­ter­lude, by the mod­er­ately suc­cess­ful stal­lion War Chant, is the third foal she has pro­duced in Cal­i­for­nia. At his third start he won a maiden mile (1600-me­tre) event at Santa Anita by eight lengths and al­though the win­ning mar­gin was only a neck, the man­ner in which he man­aged the mas­sive step up to the Santa Anita Derby at his next start has pro­pelled him to the fore­front of Ken­tucky Derby dis­cus­sions.

Mid­night In­ter­lude is trained by one of the best in the busi­ness, Bob Baf­fert, who has al­ready pre­pared three win­ners of the his­toric clas­sic.

Fur­ther sta­tis­ti­cal anal­y­sis un­der­lines the merit of the Santa Anita Derby as a guide to the Ken­tucky Derby, with pre­vi­ous win­ners of the dou­ble in­clud­ing Af­firmed in 1978 and Sun­day Si­lence 11 years later. More than three decades af­ter his to­tal dom­i­na­tion of North Amer­i­can three-year-old ranks, Af­firmed re­mains the last horse to com­plete the Triple Crown com­pris­ing the Ken­tucky Derby, Preak­ness Stakes and Bel­mont Stakes.

Back at Karyn and Hamish McQuade’s Tai­hoa train­ing es­tab­lish­ment, there’s much more than a sen­ti­men­tal in­ter­est in whether Mid­night In­ter­lude can add his name to rac­ing his­tory min­utes af­ter the Churchill Downs crowd rises to sing My Old Ken­tucky Home.

Rather for­tu­itously, they are the own­ers of the only two fe­male mem­bers of the fam­ily re­main­ing in New Zealand. Iron­i­cally, given the un­fold­ing sce­nario in North Amer­ica, Mid­night Kiss’s blood­lines are pure Amer­i­can, given that her sire was the USbred shut­tle stal­lion Groom Dancer and her dam Mid­night Assem­bly is also Amer­i­can-bred.

In­ci­den­tally, that mare’s grand­sire was Sec­re­tariat, per­haps the most fa­mous of all Ken­tucky Derby win­ners from his 1973 vic­tory in a record time that still stands.

Mid­night Kiss was one of only two fil­lies pro­duced by Mid­night Assem­bly, the other be­ing the O’Reilly filly Mid­night Dip, who showed early prom­ise but was re­tired to stud as a non-win­ner. Af­ter pro­duc­ing two colts, Mid­night Dip was sent to auc­tion in 2009 and was snapped up by the McQuades for what was hope­fully then and is most def­i­nitely now a bar­gain $4500.

Only weeks later she pro­duced a filly by the un­proven stal­lion Cec­coni and as a ris­ing two-yearold that has just been bro­ken in, she is still owned by the McQuades. Mid­night Dip, in the mean­time, did not get in foal in 2009 but is due to foal this spring to El Her­mano, an un­raced brother to Cox Plate win­ner El Se­gundo.

‘‘We fan­cied on cap­i­tal­is­ing on the suc­cess of the O’Reilly-Pins cross but we couldn’t af­ford to send her to Pins so we set­tled on the much cheaper op­tion of one of his sons,’’ Hamish McQuade said of the $1000 ser­vice fee ex­pen­di­ture.

Now in the wake of Mid­night In­ter­lude’s rise to promi­nence, blood­stock agents are again beat­ing a path to the McQuade sta­ble door.

‘‘We’ve been asked for pho­tos of the Cec­coni filly to be sent to the States,’’ said Hamish, ‘‘so we’ll see what comes of that.’’

Back to the re­al­ity of life on the home front, the McQuades find them­selves at some­thing of a dis­ad­van­tage given the small num­bers they are cur­rently train­ing, with last Fri­day’s Ro­torua win­ner Ly­dian Prince just their fourth for the sea­son.

‘‘It’s def­i­nitely a battle for lower pro­file train­ers like us,’’ said Karyn, ‘‘but all you can do is keep putting in and hop­ing your luck or your pop­u­lar­ity im­proves.’’

Ly­dian Prince is a younger brother to an­other ex­treme tal­ent sold out of the McQuade yard, Her­cu­lian Prince, who was pur­chased by clients of Gai Water­house’s Syd­ney sta­ble as the win­ner of three of his six lo­cal starts. Last Oc­to­ber the big bay capped his rise to the top when he won the Metropoli­tan Hand­i­cap at Rand­wick, cred­it­ing the first lady of Aus­tralian rac­ing with her 100th Group One suc­cess.

‘‘This horse (Ly­dian Prince) isn’t as switched on as his brother was at the same stage,’’ said Karyn.

‘‘He doesn’t have that same bril­liance but I’ve got no doubts that he’ll stay all day, so hope­fully we’ll be able to pick up a nice race or two as he de­vel­ops.’’

Win­ners: Karyn McQuade and her for­mer tal­ented sta­ble mem­ber Her­cu­lian Prince, pic­tured af­ter fin­ish­ing sec­ond in his last New Zealand start be­fore be­ing sold to Syd­ney trainer Gai Water­house.

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