Won last year by Sharp Azteca, who would finish second to Battle of Midway in the Dirt Mile, the Kelso could serve as a more useful prep as this year’s Dirt Mile, at Churchill Downs, will be run around one turn for the first time since 2011. However, no Kelso winner has won the Dirt Mile since the race reverted to the main track in 2009.
Battle of Midway returned to the track over the summer after proving subfertile as a stallion. In his first start of the season, the August 25 Pat O’Brien (G2) at Del Mar over seven furlongs, the Jerry Hollendorfer trainee finished more than seven lengths behind the buzz saw Catalina Cruiser, himself a prime contender for the Dirt Mile.
Given it was his first race in more than nine months and he was facing an imposing in-form rival, Battle of Midway’s performance was exemplary. He’ll break from post 1 in the Kelso and carry top weight of 123 pounds.
Trainer Chad Brown has two of the seven Kelso entries, and both possess early foot. Multiple Grade 3 winner Timeline is the most accomplished, but stakes debuter Patternrecognition‘s recent form is stronger. The latter exits a game win against second-level allowance company in which he led all the way while under constant pressure.
No Dozing was also an allowance winner at the Saratoga meet, but endured a wide journey in the Forego (G1) last time yet finished only 3 1/2 lengths back of Whitmore. The stakes-winning son of Union Rags is multiple graded placed.
“I think he’ll be more efficient with a one-turn mile compared to seven-eighths. I’m much more comfortable going a mile with him, especially at Belmont,” trainer Arnaud Delacour said.
“In the Forego, when he was going up against very good sprinters, they don’t wait for you at the break,” he added. “You need to break and be right there with them, and it didn’t happen, so we got too far back and had to come wide. That’s always difficult to overcome against good horses. In the Kelso, we’ll have a better chance to have a better trip.”
The supporting feature is the $200,000 Noble Damsel (G3) for fillies and mares over one mile on the turf. The Chad Brown-trained duo of Uni and Dream Awhile, along with Grade 2 veteran Hawksmoor, are the leading contenders.