The 1 1/16-mile test featured four grade 1 winners in the field of five: 6-5 favorite Midnight Bisou, champion female sprinter Shamrock Rose, Elate, and Eskimo Kisses.
"I thought she proved her quality," said trainer Steve Asmussen. "Today's Azeri had four grade 1 winners in it, and for her to come out on top is very special."With Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith aboard as usual, the 4-year-old daughter of Midnight Lute took a stalking trip inside third and then fourth as Tapa Tapa Tapa showed the way from post 1 and Shamrock Rose tracked the pace from the outside. The leader ran a quarter in :24.51 and a half in :48.81 with Smith sitting chilly on Midnight Bisou, who was making her second start of 2019 off a win in the Jan. 27 Houston Ladies Classic Stakes (G3) at Sam Houston Race Park.
Tapa Tapa Tapa still had the advantage through three-quarters in 1:12.84, but Shamrock Rose ranged up to take the lead and looked as though she might kick clear off the turn for home. As Tapa Tapa Tapa faded, however, Smith sent Midnight Bisou through on the inside and was rewarded with a surge that rocketed the filly to her seventh score, all at the graded level.
"She was loaded," Smith said. "I basically placed her and she did the rest."
Elate, making her first start since a runner-up finish in the Aug. 25 Personal Ensign Stakes (G1) at Saratoga Race Course, put in a creditable effort to finish second by a length, and trainer Bill Mott was pleased with her performance.
"She ran very well. She was coming a layoff of over 200 days," he said.
Shamrock Rose was another length back in third, and Tapa Tapa Tapa and Eskimo Kisses completed the order of finish. Summer's Indy was scratched.
The final time was 1:42.72 on a fast track.
"She's a very special mare," Asmussen said. "She's been training incredibly well all winter. Scott (Blasi) has had her in New Orleans, and Angel (Garcia) has been getting on her. She's been spot-on and looked beautiful."
The April 14 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) at Oaklawn could be the next target for Midnight Bisou, who improved her record to 7-3-3 from 13 starts, with earnings of $1,955,000. Bred in Kentucky by Woodford Thoroughbreds out of the graded stakes-winning Repent mare Diva Delite, she was an $80,000 purchase by Jeff Bloom of Bloom Racing Stable from her breeder's consignment to the 2017 Ocala Breeders' Sales Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training. She now races for Bloom Racing Stable, Madaket Stables, and Allen Racing.
"I'll have to talk to Jeff and see how she comes out of the race, but (the Apple Blossom) would be the plan," Asmussen said.
Last season, Midnight Bisou won the Santa Ynez Stakes (G2), Santa Ysabel Stakes (G3), Santa Anita Oaks (G1), Mother Goose Stakes (G2), and Cotillion Stakes (G1). She finished third in the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) and Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1). She is the third foal and most accomplished by far out of Diva Delite, who dropped a Wicked Strong filly in 2018 and was bred to Pioneerof the Nile for 2019.