- By BOB EHALT for BLOODHOSE.COM The $300,000 Beldame Invitational Stakes (G2) has taken shape as one of those intriguing stakes within a race.
At the forefront of the Sept. 28 stakes is a 1 1/8-mile contest in which Midnight Bisou will put her unbeaten 2019 record on the line against five rivals at Belmont Park. In the background is an even more important race, the tussle for Horse of the Year honors.
With a 6-for-6 record this year, the brilliant 4-year-old filly trained by Steve Asmussen is ranked second in the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Top 10 poll, which reflects voters’ impressions of the Horse of the Year race.
Turf star Bricks and Mortar heads the poll, and he, too, is undefeated in 2019 at 5-for-5, putting a spotlight on the Beldame as a stakes vital to Midnight Bisou’s Horse of the Year hopes.
“She hasn’t missed a beat and has answered every call this year,” said Bloom Racing founder Jeff Bloom, who owns the daughter of Midnight Lute along with Madaket Stables and Allen Racing.
“Our objective is to win out and put on a big show at the Breeders’ Cup. She’s deserving of the accolades and being in the Horse of the Year discussion. We have some work to do, but so do others, and it’s nice to be in this position.”
Her connections will be offering Midnight Bisou for sale at The November Sale, Fasig-Tipton’s Nov. 5 auction in Kentucky, leaving them with only two more opportunities to watch her in their silks.
The Beldame is the next step on the road that will lead to an emotional finale at the Breeders’ Cup. Though tackling males in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at 1 1/4 miles Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park could be a huge boost to her Horse of the Year campaign, Bloom said if he’s leaning in any direction, it’s toward running in the $2 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) over 1 1/8 miles.
“It’s fair to say we are leaning toward the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. You never close the door on anything, but at this point, we’re still heading down the path we laid out at the start of the year with the Distaff and have been working backwards.
So far, everything has worked out, and it’s our focus,” Bloom said. “She’s been entered in the November sale as a racing/broodmare prospect, so we’re just trying to enjoy and appreciate what we have left with her.”
There has already been much to enjoy in 2019, topped by an epic duel with Elate in the Aug. 24 Personal Ensign Stakes Presented by Lia Infiniti (G1) at Saratoga Race Course that went to Midnight Bisou by a nose in the final stride.
Considering how she had just one win in her final five starts in grade 1 stakes last year—with the victory coming via disqualification in the Cotillion Stakes (G1)—the way she has bloomed at 4 is reminiscent of Asmussen’s work in turning Gun Runner into the 2017 Horse of the Year after the colt was victorious in only one of five starts in grade 1 stakes at 3.
“It’s similar to Gun Runner in that he got progressively bigger and stronger at 4, and it’s the same thing with her,” Bloom said. “She’s already proven that she’s an exceptional filly, but at the same time we haven’t hit bottom yet and she continues to thrive. Each race has been more impressive than the other. She trains and races with such incredible intensity and desire. It’s been so incredibly rewarding and fun to witness this firsthand.”
Midnight Bisou has logged three works since her victory in the Personal Ensign, and Saturday she returns to a track where she’s 2-for-2 with a six-length score last year in the 2018 Mother Goose Stakes (G2) and a sparkling 3 1/2-length win over Come Dancing in the Ogden Phipps Stakes (G1) on Belmont Stakes Day.
“It’s a nice spot in that it affords a little bit of extra time in between the race and the Breeders’ Cup, and it gives her a race over a track where she’s put in two of her best efforts,” Bloom said about choosing the Beldame over the two-turn Juddmonte Spinster Stakes (G1) Oct. 6 at Keeneland.
“She couldn’t be doing any better, which has been a consistent theme, thankfully. She came out of the Personal Ensign like she had not even run. One would have expected that it would have knocked her down a bit, but it was the direct opposite. She was bouncing out of her stall the next day. I saw video of her last two breezes, and they were incredibly impressive. The team tells me she shipped into Belmont (Sept. 23) in great shape, and all systems are go.”
Bred in Kentucky by Woodford Thoroughbreds out of the Repent mare Diva Delite, Midnight Bisou sold for $80,000 from its consignment at the 2017 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training. She has 11 wins in 17 starts and $3,245,000 in earnings.
Midnight Bisou will break from the rail with John Velazquez. Regular rider Mike Smith opted to stay on the West Coast and ride McKinzie in Saturday’s Awesome Again Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita. Velazquez rode her in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff, when she was third behind the now-sidelined Monomoy Girl.
Her rivals include Peter Brant and Stud Vendaval’s Wow Cat, who was second in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff, finishing a half-length ahead of Midnight Bisou. In just two starts this year, she has yet to regain that form for trainer Chad Brown, taking second in the Shuvee Stakes (G3) at Saratoga after an 8 1/2-month layoff.
The 5-year-old daughter of Lookin At Lucky was then fourth in the Personal Ensign, 10 lengths behind Midnight Bisou.
Calumet Farm’s Vexatious comes into the Beldame off a sharp effort in the Summer Colony Stakes at Saratoga for trainer Jack Sisterson when second, a neck behind multiple graded stakes winner Blue Prize.
The 5-year-old Giant’s Causeway mare will be seeking her first win since the August 2018 CTT and TOC Stakes at Del Mar.
The Beldame will be the eighth of 11 races at Belmont Park with post time at 4:43 p.m. ET and television coverage on Fox Sports 2 and MSG Networks.