Santa Anita Derby winner Midnight Interlude continues his career on the grass runner Saturday; but 13 other 3-year-olds will also try to win the 1 1/8-mile, Grade II Oak Tree Derby.
Trained by Bob Baffert, the homebred son of War Chant is coming off a game effort in the Grade II Del Mar Derby on Sept. 4. A nose bob at the wire went Banned following a stretch-long duel. Banned has since been euthanized after sustaining fractured sesamoids in his right front ankle during a workout on the Santa Anita turf course.
Rafael Bejarano will be back aboard the Midnight Interlude. The bay colt has run well in three turf races after failing to be a factor in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.
Bejarano and Midnight Interlude won Hollywood Park’s Tsunami Slew Stakes on June 17 in the jockey's first race on Baffert's horse. They were fourth, beaten 1 1/4 length, in Del Mar’s Grade II La Jolla Handicap won by Burns on Aug. 13. Next came the narrow defeat after setting the pace in the Del Mar Derby.
“I was blocked in the stretch in the La Jolla,” said Bejarano. “The horse can run either way, on the lead or from just off the pace. He’s good either way. He’s shown a big heart in the stretch.”
This year’s primary competition could come from abroad. French import Venomous, who is not trained by Patrick Biancone--that would be too much to take--makes his United States debut with Joel Rosario in the saddle. Venomous came within two lengths of capturing a pair of group I events in France this spring and summer.
Trained by Tony Clout, the British-bred son of Red Ransom has posted a 2-0-5 record in 11 starts, all in France, for earnings of $173,531. Following the Oak Tree Derby, Venomous will be transferred to the local stable of Leonard Powell.
Cloud Man, trained by John Shirreffs for perennial clients Jerry and Ann Moss, rates consideration on Saturday. He was beaten only one length in the Del Mar Derby while rallying for fourth. He lost by a nose to Burns in an allowance event at Hollywood Park in June.
The homebred offspring of 1995 Kentucky Derby winner Thunder Gulch will be ridden by Mike Smith. Cloud Man owns a record of 2-2-1 in six starts. He has earned $133,440.
Trainer Wesley Ward has entered Kentucky-based Cozy Kitten on the heels of the Ken and Sarah Ramsey colt's win of the the $50,000 Franklin-Simpson Mile over the undulating track at Kentucky Downs. It was the first stakes win for Cozy Kitten, who was facing older rivals. Alonso Quinonez has the mount.
The remainder of the large field includes Grade II Swaps Stakes winner Dreamy Kid, a competitive sixth in the Del Mar Derby; Lil Bit O’Fun, who missed by a neck to Burns when second in the La Jolla Handicap; newcomer Northern Causeway, fresh off a victory in the Group III British Columbia Derby at Hastings Park; and Thirtyfirststreet, who won the $200,000 Lone Star Derby in May.
The complete field for the Oak Tree Derby, with jockeys and weights in post position order:
1. Great Warrior, Omar Berrio, 118
2. Northern Causeway, William Antongeorgio III, 122
3. Venomous, Joel Rosario, 118
4. Arraignment, Daniel Vergara, 118
5. Dreamy Kid, Martin Garcia, 122
6. Thirtyfirststreet, Patrick Valenzuela, 120
7. Lil Bit O’Fun, David Flores, 120
8. Ultimate Eagle, Martin Pedroza, 118
9. Akkadian, Brice Blanc, 118
10. Theresmyeverything, Aaron Gryder, 118
11. Cozy Kitten, Alonso Quinonez, 118
12. Cloud Man, Mike Smith, 118
13. Midnight Interlude, Rafael Bejarano, 122
14. Surrey Star, Chantal Sutherland, 120
The Oak Tree Derby is carded as the ninth on a program of 10 races with first post at 1 p.m.
--Edited Santa Anita release with additional content by Dick Downey