May 26, 2024

Battle of Midway a poignant winner of Shared Belief

Battle of Midway added blinkers and blew his rivals out of the water in the Shared Belief © BENOIT PHOTO

Don Alberto Stable and WinStar Farm’s Battle of Midway tore apart a seemingly competitive renewal of Saturday’s $100,345 Shared Belief S. at Del Mar. Drawing off by 6 1/4 lengths, the 3-1 chance gave Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer a poignant victory in the race renamed for his late, great stable star.

Battle of Midway, sixth in the Haskell Invitational (G1) last out, probably responded to the addition of blinkers. The son of Smart Strike and Grade 1 queen Rigoletta has tended to do his best work up front, when just missing in the Santa Anita Derby (G1), holding third in the Kentucky Derby (G1), and wiring the Affirmed (G3) through soft fractions. Now in the headgear, Battle of Midway procured a new tactical weapon: the ability to stalk a fast pace and deliver the coup de grace.

As the 14-1 Cistron hustled to the lead through splits of :22.44 and :45.96 on the fast track, 9-5 favorite Gato Del Oro forced the issue. Battle of Midway, a stalking third on the outside for regular rider Flavien Prat, collared the leaders at the six-furlong mark in 1:10.46. The outcome was never in doubt from there, for he cleared right away to complete the mile in 1:35.94.

Gato Del Oro was easily second-best by 4 1/4 lengths from Klimt, despite slowing down the lane. Klimt, the 5-2 second choice, could have been expected to finish better after chasing eventual Travers (G1) hero West Coast last time in the Los Alamitos Derby (G3). Possibly he regressed after such a tough comeback run.

Gormley, who denied Battle of Midway in the Santa Anita Derby, was another half-length back in fourth. The first-time blinkers did not have the desired effect in his case, and hopefully his connections – trainer John Shirreffs and owners Jerry and Ann Moss – will give him a test spin on the turf sooner rather than later. Rounding out the order under the wire were Stone Hands and Cistron, while True Valor scratched in favor of Sunday’s 8TH race.

Battle of Midway’s name was scribbled in many notebooks following his impressive debut January 21 at Santa Anita. Bet down to 4-5 favoritism when pitched directly into the San Vicente (G2), he was a non-threatening third behind Iliad. A stretch-out to two turns was already required, and he captured an entry-level allowance over highly-regarded Reach the World on the way to the Derby trail. After his Santa Anita Derby near-miss, Battle of Midway was purchased from Rick Porter’s Fox Hill by his current owners, Don Alberto (which bred and raced ill-fated Reach the World) and WinStar. His scorecard now reads 8-4-1-2, $620,000.

Given the flux in the three-year-old division on dirt, and the success of the blinkers, Battle of Midway warrants another crack at the top level in the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby (G1) September 23. Connections are also considering the $400,000 Oklahoma Derby (G3) on September 24, but he may have run himself into the bigger prize.

Bred by Thor-Bred Stables in Kentucky, Battle of Midway was a $410,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling. For the adventures of his early life (and baby photos) at Chesapeake Farm, see his “Tale from the Crib.”

Quotes from Del Mar

Jerry Hollendorfer’s assistant Dan Ward Jr. on what it means to win the Shared Belief: “I listened to the Jim Rome radio show this morning and he talked about the memories (as Shared Belief’s owner). I texted him and told him I was going to wear the colors.”

Ward on Battle of Midway: “There was some speed in the race. We’ve worked him behind horses so he had a target to run at. And with the blinkers he seemed to go on rather than waiting on horses. It doesn’t always work out the way you want, but this time it did.”

Winning rider Flavien Prat: “Much better today. The blinkers had to help. He seemed much more focused. He did just what I asked him to do. He’s a good horse. We know that. He ran third in the (Kentucky) Derby. You know he’s a good horse.”

Jockey Rafael Bejarano on runner-up Gato Del Oro: “Good trip for me and no excuses. The winner was just much the best today.”

Joe Talamo, who rode third-placer Klimt: “I had a beautiful trip. The fractions were good. He just didn’t quicken enough at the end.”

Hall of Famer Victor Espinoza on Gormley’s fourth: “He ran all right. I think he needed it. It’ll be better next time.”