Midnight Bisou, the 2019 Champion Older Dirt Female, proved her class was undeniable when she powered past speedy pacesetter and last year’s Longines Kentucky Oaks winner Serengeti Empress leaving the far turn and easily drew away in the stretch for a widening 8 ¼-length win over Motion Emotion in Saturday’s 45th running of the $200,000 Fleur de Lis presented by Coca-Cola (Grade II) at Churchill Downs.
Under the care of Hall of Fame duo trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey Mike Smith, Midnight Bisou ran 1 1/8 miles over a fast track in 1:48.99. By winning the Fleur de Lis, she secured a “Win and You’re In” berth to the $2 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff (GI) on Nov. 7 at Keeneland. But will she run in the Distaff or Breeders’ Cup Classic against open company?
Earlier this year on Feb. 29, Midnight Bisou was beaten just three-quarters of a length by Maximum Security in the inaugural $20 million Saudi Cup, which featured a field of 14 at 1 1/8 miles in the world’s richest horse race at King Abdulaziz Racecourse.
“She’s a really special mare,” said Asmussen, who won four races Saturday to take a 746-to-742 lead over Dale Romans for most wins by a trainer at Churchill Downs in the track’s storied history. “To come back, in that sort of style, is just tremendous. She has such an amazing talent and such a great relationship with Mike. She beat a wonderful-looking group of mares. We have nothing but respect towards them.”
Serengeti Empress, as expected, dictated the pace in the field of seven fillies and mares through swift fractions of :23.18, :46.15 and 1:09.74. She widened to a three-length advantage nearing the far turn but champion Midnight Bisou had her in sight throughout. The winner began to move near the 5/16-pole with a three-wide move, easily took command at the top of the lane and drew off in the stretch under a complete hand ride.
“She’s just an amazing mare,” Smith said. “I actually had took the lead a little before I wanted to. We were planning on laying a little bit closer but the way Serengeti Empress was winging it on the front end we were a little further back. She’s just incredibly special.”
Midnight Bisou, the 1-2 favorite in the wagering, paid $3, $2.60 and $2.10. Motion Emotion, with jockey Julien Leparoux aboard, paid $10.20 and $5.20. Another Broad, ridden by John Velazquez. finished third another 1 ½ lengths back of the runner-up and returned $5.
Serengeti Empress, Red Dane (ITY), Go Google Yourself and Chocolate Kisses rounded out the field.
Midnight Bisou improved her record to 21-13-5-3 boosting her career earnings of a whopping $7,371,520. She was bred in Kentucky by Woodford Thoroughbreds.
FLEUR DE LIS QUOTES
Mike Smith, jockey of MIDNIGHT BISOU (winner): “She’s just an amazing mare. I actually had took the lead a little before I wanted to. We were planning on laying a little bit closer but the way Serengeti Empress was winging it on the front end we were a little further back. She’s just incredibly special.”
Steve Asmussen, trainer of MIDNIGHT BISOU (winner): “She’s a really special mare. To come back, in that sort of style, is just tremendous. She has such an amazing talent and such a great relationship with Mike. She beat a wonderful-looking group of mares. We have nothing but respect towards them.”
Julien Leparoux, jockey of MOTION EMOTION (runner-up): “She ran a great race. The winner was much the best but I’m very proud how she ran.”
Joe Talamo, jockey of SERENGETI EMPRESS (third): “We got the lead and she was just doing her thing. She was cruising up front and then at the quarter-pole she just didn’t have that extra punch.”