Battle Of Midway Out-Finishes Sharp Azteca In Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile

Third in the Kentucky Derby in the spring, Don Alberto Stable and WinStar Farm’s Battle of Midway made his mark in the Breeders’ Cup with a very game win in the Dirt Mile. Under Flavien Prat, the sophomore son of Smart Strike determinedly fought off Sharp Azteca in the lane for a half-length victory, stopping the clock in 1:35.20 for one mile over Del Mar’s fast main track. Battle of Midway payed $30.40 to win. It was trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s second win in the Dirt Mile; his first was with Dakota Phone in 2010. Awesome Slew caught an inside trip but finished 4 1/4 lengths back in third, while Practical Joke had to settle for fourth. Post-time favorite Mor Spirit finished eighth.

“I let him break and find position and was wide early,” said Prat, who was celebrating his second career Breeders’ Cup win. “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.”

Gato del Oro was the quickest out of the starting gate, but Sharp Azteca was on his inside and able to make the lead before the first turn. Mike Smith tried to send Mor Spirit after the frontrunners, but Sharp Azteca got away from him to take a half-length advantage through a first quarter in :22.94. Jockey Paco Lopez kept Sharp Azteca several paths off the inside rail, slowing markedly in the second quarter of the race for a split of 24.01 seconds (the half was :46.95). Gato del Oro stayed right there to his outside, with Mor Spirit traveling a length behind just outside Iron Fist.

Battle of Midway had a good position in the clear while nearly three wide in fifth, with Cupid, Accelerate and Awesome Slew keeping him company. Down the backstretch Awesome Slew moved up the rail into contention from about sixth position.

“I wanted the horse to break well and he did, and that allowed Flavien to sit behind the speed,” Hollendorfer said. “He rode a perfect race, actually.”

Prat moved Battle of Midway entering the far turn, and was able to tuck in slightly and save some ground before engaging Sharp Azteca for the lead. Lopez allowed Sharp Azteca to go wide around the last bit of the turn, forcing Battle of Midway out even more. Prat didn’t panic, just kept his rhythm and drew even with the leader at the head of the lane. Awesome Slew dropped down to the rail in the turn, just two lengths behind at the head of the lane.

Battle of Midway and Sharp Azteca dueled the length of the stretch, with Battle of Midway briefly taking the advantage on the outside before Sharp Azteca battled back. It wasn’t until the final 100 yards that Battle of Midway was able to pull away from his front-running rival and cross the wire a half-length in front. Sharp Azteca had to settle for second. Awesome Slew was never any threat to the winners, but worked hard to hold off Practical Joke (who’d gone wide) for the show.

“I talked to Flavien (Prat) and we agreed there was a lot of speed in the race,” Hollendorfer said. “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.”

Bred in Kentucky by Thor-Bred Stables, Battle of Midway was a $410,000 yearling at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale. Beginning his career in the colors of Fox Hill Farm, the colt was purchased privately by WinStar and Don Alberto after a second-place finish in the G1 Santa Anita Derby. After the Kentucky Derby third, Battle of Midway won the G3 Affirmed but ran off the board in the Haskell. Hollendorfer added blinkers, and he won the Shared Belief at Del Mar by 6 1/4 lengths in his very next start. His final prep race, the Oklahoma Derby, saw Battle of Midway finish second to Untrapped by 1 3/4 lengths.

“We used the Oklahoma Derby as a prep for this race, and got a little bit unlucky in the first turn,” added Hollendorfer. “He got knocked around a bit but still ran a good race.”

Battle of Midway now owns five wins from 10 career starts, with two seconds and two thirds. The colt has earned $1,249,949.

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