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