Midnight Storm dominated his stakes debut last year when capturing the Del Mar Derby (G2) wire-to-wire, and on Saturday the Philip D’Amato trainee returns to the site of that victory when taking on six rivals in the $400,000 Eddie Read S. (G1).
The four-year-old ended up closing out his 2014 campaign in the Del Mar Derby, which was his second try on turf after a half-length allowance/optional claiming score on the same course.
Midnight Storm brings just two races since then into the Eddie Read. The dark bay colt opened 2015 with a dominating 7 3/4-length wire job against allowance/optional claimers on April 16 and just missed by a half-length in the Shoemaker Mile (G1) last out on June 13.
The Shoemaker Mile was only the second stakes try for Midnight Storm, who looks to move forward in this spot under jockey Tyler Baze.
The other big name in the Eddie Read is Finnegans Wake, and that six-year-old is looking for a return to the winner’s circle after dropping his past two.
Finnegans Wake gained attention in 2012 when running second in the Secretariat S. (G1) at Arlington, but was unable to get his picture taken in his next 11 races while giving a good showing in such events as the Man o’ War S. (G1) and Arlington Million (G1).
The Kentucky-bred finally won, taking last year’s Arlington H. (G3), and after one more race was transferred from Dale Romans to trainer Peter Miller.
Since that barn change Finnegans Wake has gone on a three-race win streak comprised of the Hollywood Turf Cup (G2), San Gabriel S. (G2) and San Marcos S. (G2) as well as capturing the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1) and finishing fourth in both the Manhattan S. (G1) and Gold Cup at Santa Anita S. (G1).
The Hollywood Turf Cup took place at Del Mar, and Finnegans Wake will be looking to go two-for-two over the track’s turf on Saturday with Victor Espinoza taking back the mount.
Gabriel Charles is a winner over the course as well, scoring in the 2013 Del Mar Derby and finishing a head second in that year’s Oceanside S., and could continue to improve here in his third start off a near 20-month vacation.
Sitting out 2014, the bay five-year-old was second against allowance/optional claiming rivals in April and rallied for third in the May 9 American S. (G3), both at Santa Anita. He gets Mike Smith in the irons Saturday.
An overflow field of 14 was entered to go 1 1/16 miles over the turf later on Del Mar’s opening Saturday in the $80,000 Osunitas S. The filly and mare contest stars Elektrum, a close fourth in the Gamely S. (G1), and Grade 2 heroine Istanford, fourth in the Dahlia most recently.
Photo: Midnight Storm (Benoit Photos)