June 23, 2024

Midnight Bisou returns to face six in Fleur de Lis

Midnight Bisou romping in the 2019 Odgen Phipps (G1) at Belmont Park (c) Horsephotos.com/Kathleen O'Leary

An excellent head second versus males in the $20 million Saudi Cup on Feb. 29., Midnight Bisou will make a highly-anticipated return to action in Saturday’s $200,000 Fleur de Lis (G2) at Churchill Downs. Steve Asmussen has been impressed by her recent training, and the Hall of Fame conditioner shared his thoughts on last year’s champion older dirt female, “She is arguably the best horse in the world.”

The Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) may be the long-range target for the stellar 5-year-old, but Midnight Bisou will stick to her own sex for the time being. She faces six challengers in the 1 1/8-mile Fleur de Lis, which serves as a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1), and regular rider Mike Smith has the assignment.

A 12-time stakes winner and earner of more than $3.7 million, Midnight Bisou won her first seven starts last season before finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1). She came back this year against a deep field in the about 1 1/8-mile Saudi Cup and raced far back in the 11-horse field before launching an eye-catching rally in the stretch, closing dynamically to miss by less than a length to Maximum Security.

“Her training before we went to Saudi was just mindboggling,” Asmussen said. “It’s just like it is now. We still wonder how she’s able to do it so easily and so consistently.”

Serengeti Empress is the main rival. Last year’s Kentucky Oaks winner opened 2020 with a sharp 6 1/4-length score in the March 14 Azeri (G2) at Oaklawn Park, but the 4-year-old filly did not make the early lead in the Apple Blossom (G1) last out and faded to 11TH. Barring unforeseen circumstances, the one-dimensional front runner will be showing the way with Joe Talamo.

“We know how she likes to go and that’s to be on the lead,” trainer Tom Amoss said. “It’s a tough matchup against a champion but the way our horse has prepared for this race has us very confident she’ll put in a great performance.”

Multiple Grade 3 queen Go Google Yourself, seventh most recently in the Apple Blossom, is also entered. The Paul McGee-trained mare ran well under the Twin Spires last fall, winning the Locust Grove (G3) and finishing second in the Falls City H. (G2), and Brian Hernandez Jr. will be up.

Completing the field are Grade 3 scorer Chocolate Kisses, second in the May 23 Shawnee S. at Churchill; stakes winners Another Broad and Motion Emotion; and longshot Red Dane.