Battle Of Midway Could Be A Player In ‘Wide Open’ Santa Anita Derby

Battle of Midway, winner of two of his three races including his first at a route March 9 when the bay son of Smart Strike scored by a neck at 1 1/16 miles, looms a major player in the $1 million, Grade I Santa Anita Derby at a mile and an eighth a week from Saturday, April 8.

“It's a wide open race with Mastery out and Battalion Runner entered in Saturday's Florida Derby,” said Dan Ward, assistant to Jerry Hollendorfer, who trains Battle of Midway, owned by Rick Porter's Fox Hill Farms, which also campaigns two-time champion filly Songbird.

“Battle of Midway could stalk or he could be on the pace,” Ward said, “and he is a horse that still has room for improvement.”

Battle of Midway and It Tiz Well, a contender for the Grade I, $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks on April 8, are scheduled to work Saturday.

Hollendorfer, meanwhile, is closing in on Peter Miller for the training lead, trailing by only two, 31-29, with seven racing days until the Winter Meet ends April 9. Flavien Prat, who missed time while in Dubai to ride Hoppertunity in the World Cup, is so far holding off a surging Tyler Baze in the jockeys' race, 52-46.

Team O'Neill had a busy morning Friday as four of its Santa Anita Derby candidates including possible favorite Iliad worked for the West Coast's major steppingstone to the Kentucky Derby on May 6.

San Vicente Stakes winner Iliad, runner-up to Mastery in the San Felipe Stakes, worked six furlongs in company, getting a time of 1:13.80 under Flavien Prat. Workmate Hoffenheim was clocked in 1:14.

Cal Cup Derby winner So Conflated, working with Dog Gone Lenny, went six furlongs in 1:15.20 with Saul Arias in the saddle. Dog Gone Lenny was given 1:15.40. Milton Freewater also went six furlongs in 1:15.40 under Tiago Pereira, while Cecil B. DeMille winner Term of Art breezed five furlongs in 1:03.40 under Tyler Baze.

In all, O'Neill had 38 of the 150 recorded breezes on Santa Anita's main track Friday.

Probable for the Santa Anita Derby: American Anthem, no rider; Battle of Midway, Corey Nakatani; Gormley, Victor Espinoza; Iliad, Flavien Prat; Kimbear, Joe Talamo; Midnight Pleasure, no rider; Milton Freewater, Tiago Pereira; Reach the World, no rider; So Conflated, Mario Gutierrez; Term of Art, Tyler Baze; and West Coast, no rider. Kimbear works at 6:30 Saturday morning with Talamo up for trainer Eric Kruljac.

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