Midnight Bisou Leading Charge Of The Asmussen Brigade On Churchill’s Closing Weekend

Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen is poised to close the 2020 Churchill Downs Spring Meet on a charge with 15 horses entered in the final three days of racing at the Louisville, Ky., racetrack, including 2019 Champion Older Dirt Female Midnight Bisou (3-5 on the morning line) in the $200,000 Fleur de Lis (GII) and promising juvenile Cazadero (8-5) in the $100,000 Bashford Manor (GIII).

“We’re very grateful to be able to run horses of this quality during this ‘new normal,’” Asmussen said. “Even though the schedule of racing has been altered, we remain grateful to have horses like (Midnight Bisou) to be able to run in stakes races such as the Fleur de Lis.”

Saturday’s 11-race program is highlighted by the $500,000 Stephen Foster (GII) but many racing fans will be focused on the Fleur de Lis with a star-studded matchup between Midnight Bisou, a 5-year-old by Midnight Lute, and last year’s Kentucky Oaks (GI) winner Serengeti Empress, a 4-year-old by Alternation.

“This has been an unprecedented year in more ways than one,” Asmussen said. “The (national) stakes schedule has not been as traditional as it used to be. We gave (Midnight Bisou) ample time to get over the trip and effort she put in at the world’s richest horse race (the $20 million Saudi Cup) in February. She was quarantined in Chicago and eventually moved to Keeneland thereafter. Her time off lasted longer than expected, which wasn’t ideal at the time but is now.”

Midnight Bisou (20-12-5-3—$7,250,000) has been nothing short of spectacular throughout her 20-race career. The now 5-year-old mare began her career on the 2018 Road to the Kentucky Oaks with victories in the $200,000 Santa Ynez (GII), $100,000 Santa Ysabel (GIII) and $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks (GI) with previous trainer Bill Spawr. Midnight Bisou finished third behind Monomoy Girl in the 2018 Kentucky Oaks (GI).

“She’s always been a beautifully kind filly to train,” Asmussen said. “She’s become more confident in her training over the last two years.”

Saturday’s Fleur de Lis is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In Distaff Division” series race. The winner will get an automatic berth to the season-ending championship race on Nov. 7 at Keeneland.

“Her next two races will likely determine which (Breeders’ Cup) race we could point toward,” Asmussen said. “We have constantly discussed where we are at with her training and progression but we know how well she performed against some of the world’s best racehorses in Saudi.”

The Fleur de Lis field from the rail out (with jockey, trainer and morning line odds): Go Google Yourself (Brian Hernandez Jr., Paul McGee, 8-1); Another Broad (John Velazquez, Todd Pletcher, 12-1); Chocolate Kisses (Declan Carroll, Mark Casse, 12-1); Serengeti Empress (Joe Talamo, Tom Amoss, 2-1); Midnight Bisou (Mike Smith, Asmussen, 3-5); Red Dane (Corey Lanerie, Charlie LoPresti, 50-1); and Motion Emotion (Julien Leparoux, Richard Baltas, 15-1).

Another top contender for the Asmussen barn entered Saturday is Stonestreet Stables’ debut winner Cazadero in the Bashford Manor. The precocious 2-year-old son of Street Sense won his debut by 8 ¾ lengths at odds of 5-1. Asmussen’s go-to rider Ricardo Santana Jr. will be in the irons for the six-furlong Bashford Manor, which will go as Race 8 on Saturday.

The Bashford Manor field, which features all first-out maiden winners, from the rail out (with jockey, trainer and morning line odds): Crown and Coke (Miguel Mena, James Lawrence II, 30-1); Hulen (Corey Lanerie, Steve Asmussen, 5-1); Gatsby(Tyler Gaffalione, Juan Alvarado, 4-1); Hyperfocus (John Velazquez, Todd Pletcher, 4-1); Herd Immunity (Brian Hernandez Jr., Peter Miller, 9-2); Cazadero (Ricardo Santana Jr., Asmussen, 8-5); and County Final (James Graham, John Ennis, 6-1).

Entering the final three days of the meet, Asmussen remained one win behind Dale Romans, 742-to-741, for the all-time leading trainer mark at Churchill Downs. Asmussen surpassed Romans’ mark earlier in the meet but, in turn, Romans won five races in less than two weeks to retake his spot on top.


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