Mid­night Storm looks to up­set Pa­cific Clas­sic

Daily Racing Form Saturday Stakes Preview - - FRONT PAGE - – Jay Priv­man

DEL MAR, Calif. – The Del Mar meet be­gan for the Lit­tle Red Feather Rac­ing part­ner­ship with a party at the beach­side home of one of its clients, went up a notch last Sun­day, when their run­ners Chati’s On Top and Chaulk O Lat­tey fin­ished first and sec­ond in the Solana Beach Hand­i­cap, and could reach the zenith on Satur­day, when their Mid­night Storm tries to pull off an up­set in the Grade 1, $1 mil­lion Pa­cific Clas­sic.

Mid­night Storm has had most of his suc­cess on turf. He won the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby here last sum­mer and was sec­ond to Talco in the Grade 1 Shoe­maker Mile at Santa Anita in June. But the big­gest and rich­est race of the meet is a temp­ta­tion too great to pass up, es­pe­cially with­out a clear-cut stand­out.

“He’s do­ing great. We know we’re tak­ing a shot, but you live for ex­pe­ri­ences like this,” Billy Koch, the founder and a man­ag­ing part­ner of Lit­tle Red Feather, said Wed­nes­day.

Koch and his child­hood friend, Gary Fenton, founded Lit­tle Red Feather more than a decade ago and had al­most been sen­sa­tional,” Koch said. “Some­times you just have to take a shot.”

Mid­night Storm landed the out­side post in a field of 10 that was en­tered Wed­nes­day for the Clas­sic, a Win and You’re In race for the Breed­ers’ Cup Clas­sic. Mid­night Storm is 20-1 on the morn­ing line of Del Mar’s Rus­sell Hu­dak, mak­ing him the co-long­est shot along with Class Leader.

The cham­pion mare Be­holder is the 5-2 fa­vorite. She drew post 9. Catch a Flight – like Be­holder trained by Richard Man­della – is the sec­ond choice at 9-2.

The field, from the rail out, is Class Leader, Bailout­bobby, Bay­ern, Hard Aces, Red Vine, Im­per­a­tive, Catch a Flight, Hop­per­tu­nity, Be­holder, and Mid­night Storm.

Grade 2 Del Mar Hand­i­cap

DEL MAR, Calif. – Owner Michael House had a per­fect first week at Del Mar this sum­mer. Gabriel Charles won the $400,000 Ed­die Read Stakes on July 18, and Big John B won

the $100,000 Cougar II Hand­i­cap on July 24.

The start of Au­gust was not as kind.

On Aug. 8, Gabriel Charles was rushed to a lo­cal vet clinic due to a bout of colic that re­quired surgery. The op­er­a­tion oc­curred a week be­fore a sched­uled trip to the Ar­ling­ton Mil­lion in Chicago.

“We had our tick­ets and ev­ery­thing,” House said. “One day we wanted to win a mil­lion­dol­lar race, and the next day we wanted him to poop.”

Gabriel Charles’s con­di­tion has im­proved in re­cent days, but he will be out of ac­tion for months. Big John B can sal­vage Au­gust for House when he starts as a lead­ing con­tender in Satur­day’s $250,000 Del Mar Hand­i­cap at 1 3/8 miles on turf.

A 6-year-old geld­ing, Big John B won the Grade 2 Del Mar Hand­i­cap last year, the high­light of an 11-race cam­paign. House claimed Big John B for $50,000 at Keeneland in April 2014. The sea­son ended with a ninth-place fin­ish in the Breed­ers’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita last Novem­ber.

The same race at Keeneland on Oct. 31 is a goal. The win­ner of the Del Mar Hand­i­cap re­ceives a fees-paid berth to the BC Turf.

Trained by Phil D’amato, Big John B has won two of three starts this year. He be­gan the sea­son with a poor eighth­place fin­ish in the Grade 3 Last Ty­coon Stakes at Santa Anita in April but re­bounded to win a starter hand­i­cap for for­mer claimers at 1 1/4 miles on turf

June 28. Big John B closed from last of five to win the Cougar II Hand­i­cap at 1 1/2 miles on dirt July 24.

There was a brief dis­cus­sion re­gard­ing a start in Satur­day’s Pa­cific Clas­sic on dirt be­fore the Del Mar Hand­i­cap was cho­sen.

“We just feel he might be a tad bet­ter on the grass,” House said. “This race has to be eas­ier on him, I would think. He’s pretty spe­cial to us.”

Big John B is part of a Del Mar Hand­i­cap field that in­cludes Ash­ley­lu­vs­sugar, who won two Grade 2 stakes on turf at Santa Anita in the spring, and Fin­negans Wake, who has won four graded stakes on turf in the last year.

Saratoga: Alabama Stakes

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Todd Pletcher will go for a third straight sweep of the Grade 1 route races for 3-year-old fil­lies at Saratoga when he sends out Cu­ralina as the prob­a­ble fa­vorite in Satur­day’s Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga.

Cu­ralina, un­beaten in four starts this year, won the Grade 1 Coach­ing Club Amer­i­can Oaks via dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion here July 26. In 2013, Pletcher won the Coach­ing Club and Alabama with Princess of Syl­mar. Last year, Stopcharg­ing­maria pulled off the CCA Oaks-alabama dou­ble for Pletcher. In 2012, Quest­ing, trained by Kiaran Mclaugh­lin, won both races.

While Quest­ing won the Eclipse Award for cham­pion 3-year-old filly, nei­ther Prin-

cess of Syl­mar nor Stopcharg­ing­maria did.

“We’ve been for­tu­nate enough to win the Coach­ing Club and Alabama the last two years,” Pletcher said Wed­nes­day.

Re­gard­ing Cu­ralina, Pletcher added: “She seems to have held form as well as Stopcharg­ing­maria and Princess of Syl­mar in be­tween races. It’d be kind of cool to pull it off.”

Cu­ralina fin­ished sec­ond in her de­but last sum­mer at Saratoga. She didn’t make it back to the races un­til March 28, when she won a seven-fur­long maiden race at Gulf­stream Park. She then gal­loped to an 8 1/4-length vic­tory in a first-level al­lowance race at Churchill Downs on Ken­tucky Oaks Day be­fore over­com­ing dif­fi­cul­ties to win both the Acorn and CCA Oaks.

The Alabama will mark the first time Cu­ralina is run­ning back in four weeks or less.

“She hasn’t given us any in­di­ca­tion that it will be a prob­lem,” Pletcher said. “She’s trained ex­tremely well; both of her breezes were quite good.”

Lovely Maria, the Ken­tucky Oaks win­ner, and I’m a Chat­ter­box, third in the Ken­tucky Oaks, both ar­rived at Saratoga from Delaware Park at around 3:45 a.m. Wed­nes­day, ac­cord­ing to trainer Larry Jones, who drove the fil­lies here him­self.

Jones noted that I’m a Chat­ter­box shipped here “a whole lot bet­ter this time” than she did for the CCA Oaks. Jones said the CCA Oaks was the first time I’m a Chat­ter­box wasn’t sta­bled along­side Lovely Maria since he had both fil­lies at Fair Grounds in the win­ter.

In­clude Betty, the Mother Goose win­ner, ar­rived from Delaware a day ear­lier than Jones’s fil­lies did. Danette, Em­bel­lish the Lace, and Sweet­grass com­plete the field.

Mon­mouth Park: Grade 3 Oaks

The Grade 3 Mon­mouth Oaks al­ways seems to draw a field that is more than wor­thy of the race’s $100,000 purse. Satur­day’s re­newal of the 1 1/16-mile race has at­tracted 11 3-year-old fil­lies, seven of whom won their last start.

Although White Clover tired to fin­ish sev­enth in the Delaware Oaks, it is usu­ally a good idea to start hand­i­cap­ping with whomever trainer Larry Jones has en­tered. Jones has won four of the last seven run­nings of the Mon­mouth Oaks. He won it last year with Cas­satt, in 2010 with No Such Word, in 2009 with Just Jenda, and in 2008 with Maren’s Meadow.

Jones is loaded with 3-yearold fil­lies this year and has en­tered both I’m a Chat­ter­box and Lovely Maria in the Grade 1 Alabama at Saratoga on Satur­day. When Jones speaks of his Alabama pair, he usu­ally men­tions White Clover, too. It would not be a sur­prise to see her im­prove in the Oaks.

Other top play­ers in the Mon­mouth Oaks are Grade 2 In­di­ana Oaks win­ner High Dol­lar Woman, re­cent sec­ondlevel al­lowance win­ner Light the City, Grade 1 class drop­per Esken­for­money, and Bel­mont al­lowance win­ners De­light­ful Joy and Lady Ser­ena.

SHIGEKI KIKKAWA

Mid­night Storm, shown win­ning an al­lowance in April, is a 20-1 long­shot in the Pa­cific Clas­sic.

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