By Sean Morris
ELMONT, NY – Bolstering an already sterling resume, Midnight Bisou captured the Grade 1, $700,000 Ogden Phipps in explosive fashion, rolling home to a 3 ½-length victory in the 1 1/16-mile dirt event for older fillies and mares on Saturday, Belmont Stakes Day, at Belmont Park.
Midnight Bisou’s victory in the 51st edition of the Ogden Phipps, a “Win and You’re In” qualifier, earned her an all-expenses paid trip to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff on November 2 at Santa Anita Park by virtue of extending her winning streak to four, including back-to-back Grade 1 tallies.
Owned by Bloom Racing Stables, Madaket Stables and Allen Racing, Midnight Bisou was sent off as the 8-5 second choice, ceding the role of favorite to Come Dancing, who had won her previous two starts – both in graded stakes – by a combined 14 ½ lengths.
After a slight stumble at the start, Come Dancing went to the front to lead a compact five-horse field through an opening quarter-mile in 23.39 seconds and the half in 45.96 on the fast main track, with Midnight Bisou and Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith sitting in the garden spot in fourth along the rail.
Come Dancing sustained her edge into the lane after carving out a brisk three-quarters in 1:09.23, but once Midnight Bisou was tipped out into the clear in upper stretch, a potentially suspenseful stretch run quickly turned into a coronation, as the Midnight Lute filly stormed by at the eighth pole and extended her margin to the wire.
Completing the distance in a flashy 1:39.69, Midnight Bisou came within shouting distance of Transparent’s track record of 1:39.22 set in 2014.
“She just seems to be getting better with age, and she just loves it here at Belmont,” Smith said. “I don’t know what it is, but Big Sandy seems to bring out the best in her.
“She broke good, in the bridle, and she stayed parked inside waiting for a chance to run,” he added. “I thought the filly in front [Come Dancing] would be good enough to put some space between us, so I could get out when I wanted to, and that’s what happened. She’s a really nice filly.”
With the winner’s share of $375,000, the dark bay or brown filly’s earnings crept even closer to the $3 million mark with $2.78 million now in her war chest. She returned $5.40 on a $2 win wager.
“She makes you so proud. She changes people’s lives,” said Midnight Bisou’s Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, who picked up his first victory in the Ogden Phipps. “She’s just a special horse and I’m proud to be associated with her. I believe she’s added to how great she is with consistency. She’s expecting to win, and I think the results speak for themselves.”
Though no firm plans are established for her next race, Asmussen said Midnight Bisou will return to her Churchill Downs base before her connections map out the remainder of her 2019 campaign.
Carlos Martin-trainee Come Dancing stayed on gamely for second, three-quarters of a length ahead of Mopotism, the longest shot on the board at 21-1.
“She tried to break so fast the dirt kind of broke beneath her a little bit, but she still made the lead pretty easy,” said Martin. “I felt comfortable going down the backside. The second fraction was a little bit fast, but the track has been fast all day. Midnight Bisou is a champion. She’s 8-for-8 at this distance, so no disgrace. I’m proud of my mare. She hung in for second, so we’ll regroup and come back later on.”
It was another 6 ¾ lengths back to the well-travelled Escape Clause in fourth, with Pacific Wind completing the order of finish.