Tuesday, November 29, 2016


Midnight Storm, whose success has been earned primarily on grass, showed his versatility Sunday as he transferred his ability to Del Mar’s main dirt track and cruised to an easy triumph in the Grade III $100,000 Native Diver.

With Mike Smith along for the ride, Midnight Storm took command shortly after the start of the nine-furlong contest and never was threatened, widening in the stretch to win by seven and three-quarters under highweight of 125 pounds.

Smith replaced Flavien Prat aboard Midnight Storm when Prat was unseated breaking from the gate aboard We Go Now in the third race. Prat was cleared to ride his remaining mounts Sunday but reportedly was experiencing physical discomfort and was excused by the board of stewards from further competition Sunday afternoon.

Point Piper was runner-up in the Native Diver, a head in front of Hard Aces, with Blue Tone fourth in the field of seven older horses.

Midnight Storm, a five-year-old son of Pioneerof the Nile owned by Venneri Racing and Little Red Feather Racing and trained by Phil D’Amato, stepped the distance in 1:51.59 over a “good” track and paid $5.20, $3.40 and $2.60 after his ninth win in 20 outings. First money of $60,000 increased his bankroll to $1,341,110.

Point Piper paid $5 and $3.80, while Hard Aces returned $2.60 to show.

In the co-headliner, the $100,000 Cecil B. DeMille Stakes for two-year-olds, Term of Art, flying the famous colors of Calumet Farm, forged to the front in the final sixteenth to defeat longshot Vending Machine and 8-5 favored Sword Fighter in a driving finish.

Ridden by Joe Talamo, Term of Art, a Doug O’Neill-trained son of Tiznow bred in Kentucky, scored by a length and one-quarter, with Vending Machine three-quarters of a length in front of the show horse, Sword Fighter. Fourth in the field of seven juveniles was Curly’s Waterfront. Withdrawn from the original field were Offshore and Conscripted.

Over a main dirt surface labeled “good” after recent wet weather, Term of Art raced the mile in 1:41.69 and returned $15.80, $7.20 and $4.40. Victory was his second in five starts and first money of $60,000 boosted his earnings to $111,105. Vending Machine paid $12.80 and $6, while Sword Fighter returned $2.60 to show.

MIKE SMITH (Midnight Storm, winner) – “Phil (trainer D’Amato) didn’t tell me anything. He just said if he likes it (the off track), you’ll have some fun. He looked to be the only speed and I caught a flyer coming away from there. He was going so easy; I never moved my hands. He was looking around, so I knew he was happy. Then when I asked him to do some running, he did it. Very impressive.”

MARIO GUTIERREZ (Point Piper, second) – “He made up some good ground late. It was a good try for him. But that winner – oh, man, he’s tough.”

SANTIAGO GONZALEZ (Hard Aces, third) -- “Good try for him. Good race.”

PHIL D’AMATO  (Midnight Storm, winner) – “He did it the right way. Mike (Smith) got him to relax beautifully and at the three-eighths pole he just put the squeeze on him a little bit and (Midnight Storm) opened up on them. It’s important (graded stakes win on dirt) for a lot of reasons. At stud in the future and it gives us a lot more opportunities to look at for next year”

FRACTIONS:  :23.89  :48.36  1:13.53  1:38.95  1:51.59

The stakes win was second of the Fall meet, but first in the Native Diver for rider Smith. He now has 60 stakes wins at Del Mar, 11th best among all riders.

The stakes win was the first of the Fall meet and the first in the Native Diver for trainer D’Amato. He now has 13 stakes wins at Del Mar.

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