HOT SPRINGS, AR (Sunday, April 14, 2019) – Favorite Midnight Bisou demonstrated her championship potential by grinding out a narrow win over the hard-fighting Escape Clause in Sunday’s $750,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1). It was the seventh Apple Blossom for Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, who won it twice with Zenyatta and three times with Azeri, and second for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, who won it with champion Untapable.
In this year’s edition, Canadian champion Wonder Gadot shot to the lead and took the field of six through early fractions of :23 and :47 for the first half mile with 20-time winner Escape Clause tracking in second and Midnight Bisou unhurried early in fifth. The winner moved to challenge three deep nearing upper stretch, wrested a narrow advantage leaving the furlong marker and got up to win by a nose in 1:43 4/5.
Elate, the 6-5 second choice, got up for third after breaking last. Viva Forever, Chocolate Martini and Wonder Gadot completed the order of finish.
Midnight Bisou, who was winning for the second straight time this year after also capturing the March 16 Azeri Stakes (G2), improved her overall record to 8-3-3 in 14 starts and has now earned $2,405,000 for owners Bloom Racing, Madakat Stables and Allen Racing. She returned $3.80, $2.60 and $2.10 as the 4-5 favorite.
$750,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) quotes:
Winning trainer Steve Asmussen, Midnight Bisou: “What an unbelievable filly. We were talking about a special filly she is, how much confidence she has this year. She really seems to be enjoying her job. We’re just blessed to have her.”
Winning jockey Mike Smith, Midnight Bisou: “Man that was great. Escape Clause ran huge, but you know, the great ones seem to pull it off no matter what. I’m really happy with the way she ran today, but she had to run. Sometimes you have to do that. I set back with Elate and waited to make my move. She ran huge, she had to fight for it, but she ran big. Escape clause ran really well.”
Trainer Don Schnell, Escape Clause: “I was slightly disappointed when the photo came up, but we said if we could run third in there, I’d be the happiest man in the world, so I’m going to stick with that.”
Jockey Tyler Baze, second with Escape Clause: “She’s really and truly probably one of the best horses I’ve ever been on in my life. She gives it her all. She got beat a nose and I got slammed pretty hard going into the first turn. I knew I got beat at the wire. It was a head-and-head battle all the way down the lane. She gave me everything. We were a little unfortunate we didn’t get the bob.”
Trainer Bill Mott, third with Elate: “She got back into good position after that (sluggish start). I thought he (Jose Ortiz) was really loaded going into the turn, I thought he was going well. I thought he was going quite well. He had to wait a little until Midnight Bisou went past him and then he came out and around. I don’t know if that cost any momentum or not. I don’t have any big excuses.”