Midnight Storm Scores Decisive Victory in $100,000 Native Driver
Sunday’s ‘off’ track at Del Mar did not slow down Midnight Storm. Nor did a jockey change after Flavien Prat was injured earlier in the day and replaced by Mike Smith.
Midnight Storm became only the second favorite to win a stakes race thus far in the fall meeting in the Grade III Native Diver Stakes, romping home with Smith aboard to win by 7¾ lengths.
Trained by Phil D’Amato, Midnight Storm sped to the early lead and never was threatened in the 1 1/8 mile race. He opened up a 4 ½ length lead in the stretch and drew off under a brisk hand ride from Smith. Midnight Storm paid $5.20 to win in a final time of 1:51.59. Point Piper returned $5 and $3.80, while Hard Aces was another head back in third and paid $2.60 to show.
“Trainer (Phil) D’Amato said if he likes it (the off track), you’ll have some fun,” said Smith. “Midnight Storm looked to be the only speed and was going easy. When I asked him to do some running, he did … very impressive.”
Midnight Storm, a 5-year-old son of Pioneer of the Nile, was running on the dirt for only the second time in 12 starts. His last eight races were on the turf. A third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Mile snapped a three-race winning streak that included the Grade II Eddie Read and Del Mar Mile stakes during the summer meeting.
Chilling gusts topping 30 miles per hour swept the grounds that were drenched by three-quarters of an inch of rain Saturday afternoon and evening. More squalls swept the grounds overnight, although little rain fell after the first post at 12:30 p.m.
The victory, worth $60,000, increased Midnight Storm‘s career earnings to $1,341,110, with nine wins in 20 starts.