War Chant colt set for Del Mar Derby

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has several summer options for Midnight Crooner after his promising colt scored a fast finishing victory in the LR Oceanside Stakes at Del Mar (1600m) on Wednesday.

Midnight Crooner (3c War Chant – Midnight Kiss by Groom Dancer) stalking the pace and stretched out in the straight to collar Chips All In by a neck in 1.34.74s.  “I had a beautiful trip and he’s definitely a better horse on grass,” jockey Rafael Bejarano said.  “I followed Chips All In and then, when it came time, my horse did his best.  He ran hard and we got there.”

Midnight Crooner is a son of Yarradale Stud shuttler War Chant and is a younger brother to Midnight Interlude who won the G1 Santa Anita Derby last year for Baffert and owner-breeder Arnold Zetcher.

A progressive colt, he was a dominant seven length maiden winner at Golden Gate Fields before finishing third in the LR Pasadena Stakes at Santa Anita.  Baffert sent him to Keeneland in April but ditched Triple Crown plans when he was unplaced in the G1 Blue Grass Stakes.

The colt returned to California to score on turf at Hollywood Park before doubling up in the Oceanside Stakes on the opening day of Del Mar’s summer meeting.

“I’ve been pointing Midnight Crooner for this race,” Baffert said.  “I thought he would be the favourite but he went out fourth pick.  We will play it by ear from here but we want to ensure he makes the Del Mar Derby.”

Midnight Crooner’s next assignment will be the G2 La Jolla Hcp on August 11 leading into the G2 Del Mar Derby on August 23.  Baffert and Zetcher finished second in last year’s Derby with Midnight Interlude.

The brothers are out of NZ bred mare Midnight Kiss.  She won races at Arawa Park and Tauranga before finishing third in the 2004 NZ Oaks won by Wharite Princess.

Exported to North America, Midnight Kiss had already foaled the Point Given winner Prime Kiss before Midnight Interlude and Midnight Crooner arrived.  She has a 2yo filly by War Chant and a yearling filly by Bernstein.

War Chant (Danzig) covered over 100 mares in his first southern season shuttling from Three Chimneys Farm to Yarradale last year.  He stands for a $22,000 (inc gst) service fee.

Fellow Danzig sire Scandal Keeper is also based at Yarradale.  He had a 100% winning record with his first six starters and his book has already been closed for 2012.