Denk on Horses Derby contender profiles
Profile: Midnight Interlude
Midnight Interlude wins the Santa Anita with Victor Espinoza up. (Eclipse Sportswire)
Conventional wisdom says that if your prospect does not get at least one start at age 2, he will not have the necessary foundation to win the Kentucky Derby.
The last time a horse won the Run for the Roses without at least one 2-year-old race was Apollo in 1882.
A Derby win by Midnight Interlude, who made his debut on January 29 at Santa Anita Park, would rewrite that stat.
After finishing a distant third in his debut in a very fast sprint race, Midnight Interlude stretched out to a mile four weeks later. He showed considerable improvement when second to Red Sharp Humor.
A horse’s first couple races are an important test of his constitution, and Midnight Interlude must have passed that hurdle with flying colors, because trainer Bob Baffert wheeled him back for his third start just three weeks later. Again going a mile, Midnight Interlude dominated the field and broke his maiden by 8 1/2 lengths on March 20.
Next up, was an ambitious entry into the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, which ultimately was depleted by the injuries to Premier Pegasus and Jaycito. Midnight Interlude stalked the pace in that 1 1/8-mile dirt race and got caught four-wide on both turns. Under pressure from his rider on the far turn, Midnight Interlude responded with a good final three-eighths of a mile in about 36.60 seconds.
He had to change direction in the stretch to get outside of pacesetter Comma to the Top, who was wandering out into his path. Midnight Interlude outgamed and outstayed Comma to the Top, and he galloped out well. The Derby distance should be within his scope.
The Santa Anita Derby was a fairly fast effort, especially if you factor in Midnight Interlude’s wide trip. Most importantly, the horse has considerable room to get better. He is still developing, mentally and physically.
Midnight Interlude has good positional speed and has gotten better as the distances get longer. He has star potential. If historical trends hold — and they date back to 1882 — an on-the-board finish, not a victory, will be his ceiling here. Going up in class while facing a ton of new variables, the Derby for Midnight Interlude is likely to be a valuable learning race.