Bloom Racing Stable, Madaket Stable and Allen Racing's Midnight Bisou was impressive in Saturday's Grade 2 Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn Park, waiting for racing room until nearly the eighth pole and then bursting up the rail to best multiple G1 winner and even-money favorite Elate by three-quarters of a length. A 4-year-old daughter of Midnight Lute ridden by Mike Smith and trained by Steve Asmussen, the 6-5 second choice Midnight Bisou completed 1 1/16 miles over the fast main track in 1:42.72.
“It's all Midnight Bisou,” Asmussen said. “She's a very special mare. She's been training incredibly well all winter. Scott (Blasi) has had her in New Orleans and Angel (Garcia) has been getting on her. She's been spot on and looked beautiful. I thought she proved her quality today. Today's Azeri had four Grade 1 winners in it and for her to come out on top is very special.”
As expected, the speedy Tapa Tapa Tapa broke on top with champion sprinter Shamrock Rose tracking the pace from second. Midnight Bisou and Smith were close up at the rail as Elate and late-running Eskimo Kisses brought up the remainder of the small but talented field. After fractions of :24.51 and :48.81, Eskimo Kisses put pressure on Elate to move her up into third position approaching the far turn.
Shamrock Rose took over around the bend and looked strong at the head of the lane, but Elate was getting rolling on her outside and Midnight Bisou was desperately looking for racing room behind the leader while sandwiched between Elate and Tapa Tapa Tapa.
Nearing the eighth pole, Smith gave the filly her cue and Midnight Bisou leapt into a narrow space between the fading Tapa Tapa Tapa and the heels of Shamrock Rose. Midnight Bisou flew by her rivals in a matter of strides, leaving Elate trying to pick up the momentum in the final hundred yards. At the wire, Midnight Bisou was three-quarters of a length ahead of Elate, with Shamrock Rose settling for third. Tapa Tapa Tapa finished fourth.
Bred in Kentucky by Woodford Thoroughbreds, Midnight Bisou was an $80,000 2-year-old at the OBS April sale. She had a big season as a 3-year-old, winning the G1 Santa Anita Oaks before chasing champion Monomoy Girl in the Kentucky Oaks and CCA Oaks. Midnight Bisou finally defeated that foe via disqualification in the G1 Cotillion, but finished third behind her again in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. In 2019, Midnight Bisou has won both of her starts to improve her overall record to 7-3-3 from 13 efforts, with earnings of over $1,950,000.
The Azeri was the final major local prep for the $750,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) April 14.
“I'll have to talk to owner (Jeff Bloom) and see how she comes out of the race, but that would be the plan,” Asmussen said.
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