Bloom Racing Stable, Madaket Stable, and Allen Racing's Midnight Bisou had to work hard as the 4-5 favorite in the stretch of Sunday's Grade 1 Apple Blossom, fending off a determined drive from 8-1 chance Escape Clause. Under Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith, Midnight Bisou hit the wire a nose ahead of her rival to earn her third straight victory. The 4-year-old Midnight Lute filly, trained by Steve Asmussen, covered 1 1/16 miles over Oaklawn's “good” main track in 1:43.88.
The 6-5 second choice in the wagering, Elate finished third after leaving the gate a bit slowly.
“Man that was great,” said Smith, who was winning the Apple Blossom for a record seventh time. The jockey also swept the weekend's Grade 1 races in Hot Springs with a win in the Arkansas Derby on Omaha Beach on Saturday. “Escape Clause ran huge, but you know, the great ones seem to pull it off no matter what. I'm really happy with the way she ran today, but she had to run. Sometimes you have to do that. I set back with Elate and waited to make my move. She ran huge, she had to fight for it, but she ran big. Escape clause ran really well.”
Escape Clause was the quickest out of the starting gate, but allowed Wonder Gadot to speed out to take the lead into the first turn. Midnight Bisou stayed three-wide and out in the clear in a joint third position. Wonder Gadot went out to a three-length lead through fractions of :23.07 and :47.08, while Escape Clause tracked her from second.
Approaching the far turn, the field began to compress around the leader and Escape Clause took over the lead near the five-sixteenths pole. Midnight Bisou was still three-wide but only had three-quarters of a length to make up, and Elate had started to angle off the rail for her run another three lengths behind that.
Midnight Bisou drew even with Escape Clause but had to battle her down the length of the stretch to earn the smallest advantage. Escape Clause changed leads a couple times in the final sixteenth and Midnight Bisou got ahead just enough at the wire. Elate finished third, while Viva Forever checked in fourth.
“She's really and truly probably one of the best horses I've ever been on in my life,” said Tyler Baze of runner up Escape Clause. “She gives it her all. She got beat a nose and I got slammed pretty hard going into the first turn. I knew I got beat at the wire. It was a head-and-head battle all the way down the lane. She gave me everything. We were a little unfortunate we didn't get the bob.”
Bred in Kentucky by Woodford Thoroughbreds, Midnight Bisou was an $80,000 juvenile purchase at the OBS April sale. She now has three Grade 1 wins on her resume, including the Santa Anita Oaks and the Cotillion, and is the first horse to sweep the Azeri and the Apple Blossom since Close Hatches in 2014. Overall, Midnight Bisou's record stands at 8-3-3 from 14 starts and earnings of over $2.4 million.
“What an unbelievable filly,” Asmussen said. “We were talking about a special filly she is, how much confidence she has this year. She really seems to be enjoying her job. We're just blessed to have her.”
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