March 2, 2024

Midnight Bisou thwarts Escape in Apple Blossom dogfight

Midnight Bisou (outside) and jockey Mike Smith just run down Escape Clause (inside) under Tyler Baze to take the Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) at Oaklawn Park on April 14, 2019 (c) Coady Photography/Oaklawn Park

Bloom Racing Stable, Madaket Stables, and Allen Racing’s Midnight Bisou outdueled a super-game Escape Clause in Sunday’s $750,000 Apple Blossom H. (G1) at Oaklawn Park. The 4-5 favorite off a course-and-distance victory in the March 16 Azeri (G2), the Steve Asmussen trainee also ranked as the 122-pound highweight.

Midnight Bisou was allowed to settle well off the pace by Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith, who also won Saturday’s Arkansas Derby (G1) with Omaha Beach. Meanwhile, a keyed-up Wonder Gadot seized the lead from Escape Clause and sprinted clear through fractions of :23.07 and :47.08. She came back to the field, however, before they’d swung out of the backstretch.

Escape Clause was the first to overtake her by the six-furlong mark in 1:12.12. Smith had already gotten Midnight Bisou in gear at that point, and the favorite rolled up to join her rounding the far turn.

But Escape Clause, the Manitoba-bred celebrity, responded upon straightening into the stretch and clung to the lead. Midnight Bisou had to work to try to subdue her doughty rival, and even when she gradually got the upper hand, Escape Clause didn’t know she was beat. Fighting back again to force the photo, the 8-1 chance missed by only a nose.

Midnight Bisou, who was giving Escape Clause five pounds, clocked 1:43.88 to extend her record at the 1 1/16-mile trip to a perfect seven-for-seven. She’s also won three straight, having taken the January 27 Houston Ladies’ Classic (G3) en route to the Azeri/Apple Blossom double.

Elate, the 6-5 second choice, broke a beat slowly on the rail, possibly lulled by the delay as the 55-1 Viva Forever took her time consenting to load. In a good spot just behind the leaders turning for home, Elate couldn’t make a dent on the top two and settled for third. There was a nine-length gap back to Viva Forever, trailed by Chocolate Martini and Wonder Gadot.

Midnight Bisou has now bankrolled $2,405,000 from her 14-8-3-3 line. The winner (via the disqualification of champion Monomoy Girl) in the 2018 Cotillion (G1), she also sports victories in last season’s Santa Anita Oaks (G1), Mother Goose (G2), Santa Ynez (G2) (at seven furlongs), and Santa Ysabel (G3). When tried over longer at three, the Midnight Lute filly placed in the Kentucky Oaks (G1), Coaching Club American Oaks (G1), Alabama (G1), and Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1).

Bred by Woodford Thoroughbreds in Kentucky, Midnight Bisou is out of the Grade 3-winning Repent mare Diva Delite. The dark bay RNA’d for $19,000 as a Keeneland September yearling but brought $80,000 as an OBS April juvenile.

Quotes from Oaklawn Park

Winning trainer Steve Asmussen: “What an unbelievable filly. 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.”

Winning rider Mike Smith: “Man that was great. 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.”

Jockey Tyler Baze on near-misser Escape Clause: “She’s really and truly probably one of the best horses I’ve ever been on in my life. 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.”

Trainer Bill Mott on Elate’s third: “She got back into good position after that (sluggish start). I thought he (Jose Ortiz) was really loaded going into the turn, I thought he was going well. I thought he was going quite well. He had to wait a little until Midnight Bisou went past him and then he came out and around. I don’t know if that cost any momentum or not. I don’t have any big excuses.”