Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Midnight Interlude's Derby Outlook

Midnight Interlude's maiden victory - a two-turn mile, maiden special weight at Santa Anita. (Wet-Fast Track)

Pace: 23.02, 45.77, 1:10.11, 1:22.91, 1:36.25

Midnight Interlude (Post Position 3, Joel Rosario) has an uneventful trip here, after breaking well and finding himself on the lead. Riding the rail the entire trip, Grip Hands does a nice job pressing Interlude into a second quarter of 22.75, but Interlude then relaxes and slows the pace to his liking from then on. Once Grip Hands throws in the towel at the top of the stretch, Interlude draws off to an easy eight and a half length win.

Not much to go on here, facing just four rivals - only one of whom Interlude had any authentic contact with. I'm not going to pretend I know anything about Grip Hands, but Interlude having dueled him into submission before finishing last can only be looked at as a positive. Interlude, sans quickening the second quarter too fast, was very professional in the win.

Equibase chart 

The Grade One Santa Anita Derby at a mile and an eight around two turns.

Pace: 22.81, 47.33, 1:11.53, 1:36.05, 1:48.66 

Midnight Interlude (Post Position 6, Victor Espinoza) breaks well and shows speed, sitting two lengths off the lead, on the outside (five wide) around the clubhouse turn. The opening quarter is very quick, but leader Comma to the Top is able to slow the pace, running the second quarter in 24.52. After having sat in third, a length off the leader on the backside, Comma to the Top mildly spurts away on the final turn. Interlude, now three lengths back, still in third begins to advance on the outside with Espinoza going to the left handed whip. Comma to the Top maintains his spot in the four path as Interlude shifts in behind him and is forced to steady. Once Espinoza is able to straighten Interlude out he finally wears down Comma to the Top in the shadow of the wire.

Midnight Interlude, highlighted in white, steadying behind Comma to the Top in the stretch.

Having first thought Midnight Interlude's kick in the stretch, once he escaped trouble, was unsatisfactory, after studying the pace, reeling in Comma to the Top was no easy task. Comma has the tools to become a nice miler, and becomes a tough catch on the lead when he's enabled to run three quarter miles, slower than :24, in a row. Had Interlude been able to keep a straight line in the stretch he may have won by two or three lengths.

Full chart

Final thoughts - No question, Midnight Interlude is very talented. Jumping up from a maiden special weight to win the Santa Anita Derby is quite notable. He's just beginning to blossom, and I'm sure he's got some fantastic performances ahead of him but the Derby will not be one of them.

I do accept that Midnight Interlude ran a nice race in the Santa Anita Derby, but take a look at the chart. I'm no connoisseur of the races out west, but I'd be surprised if this wasn't the weakest field ever assembled for the Santa Anita Derby.

His best asset, tactical speed, becomes a disadvantage in the Derby since we're expecting a hot pace with so many others (Uncle Mo, Mucho Macho Man, Pants on Fire, Soldat, Comma to the Top, Shackleford, and Decisive Moment) with early speed as well. Perhaps he'll be able to stalk and pounce at the quarter pole, but I don't see him holding off the closers down the lane.

I look for Midnight Interlude to show promise later in the year, (maybe even in two weeks) where he'll get much more of a favorable pace setup but on Saturday he'll be an underlay if he drops below 18-1.

Midnight Interlude's PP's

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