DEL MAR, Calif. — Friday’s $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) delivered the drama horse racing fans come to expect from the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, with Battle of Midway eventually prevailing over pacesetter Sharp Azteca after a thrilling stretch duel.
Owned by Don Alberto Stable and WinStar Farm, the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained Battle of Midway was ridden by Flavien Prat. The 3-year-old colt launched a wide bid into contention on the far turn to draw even by upper stretch and eventually scored by a half-length, stopping the teletimer in 1:35.20 at Del Mar.
The bay son of Smart Strike was overlooked as the 14-1 seventh choice among 10 rivals.
“He’s a horse for the course. He loves Del Mar,” Hollendorfer said. “He had run a huge number here (when winning the Shared Belief Stakes). We had a lot of confidence in him coming into this race.
“I talked to Flavien and we agreed there was a lot of speed in the race. At the break he was able to follow John Sadler’s horse (Accelerate) and got a good position. This horse has always been a fighter and he showed that today. He showed a lot of courage in winning this race.”
Runner-up in the September 24 Oklahoma Derby (G3) in his previous outing, Battle of Midway recorded his third stakes victory. He rolled to a 6 ¼-length victory in the August 26 Shared Belief at Del Mar and captured the Affirmed (G3) at Santa Anita in late June. Runner-up in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) and third in the Kentucky Derby (G1), the only blemish on his resume was a sixth in the Haskell Invitational (G1).
Battle of Midway has now earned $1,249,949 from a 10-5-2-2 career line.
“I let him break and find position and was wide early,” Prat said. “I thought there would be more pace. Then down the backside he relaxed well and gave me a really good kick. He was training really well in the morning.”
Sharp Azteca was off as the 5-2 second choice and established splits in :22.94, :46.95 and 1:11.13 on a short advantage. He proved game when challenged and easily held second by 4 ¼ lengths over the late-running Awesome Slew in third.
“That was a tough beat,” Sharp Azteca’s jockey Paco Lopez said. “I didn’t want to go to the lead but my horse broke sharp and the horse (Gato Del Oro) came to my outside. I had to go to the lead. The horse tried all the way. He kept running but just got caught.”
Practical Joke wound up a half-length back of Awesome Slew in fourth. Iron Fist, Giant Expectations, Gato Del Oro, 2-1 favorite Mor Spirit, Accelerate and Cupid came next under the wire.
Battle of Midway was bred in Kentucky by Thor-Bred Stables LLC and was purchased for $410,000 at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale. He’s out of the Grade 1-winning Concerto mare Rigoletta.