Battle Of Midway was an 18/1 long shot but lived up to his name by outbattling the gutsy pacesetter Sharp Azteca (100/30) in the stretch to win the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile by half a length under Flavien Prat on November 3 at Del Mar.
Owned by Don Alberto Stable and WinStar Farm and trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, it was the three-year-old son of Smart Strike’s first win in grade 1 company.
Mark Casse’s Awesome Slew (18/1) was four lengths further back in third, half a length ahead of Steve Asmussen’s Practical Joke (6/1) who beat his unfancied stablemate Iron Fist (33/1) two lengths into fifth place.
Bob Baffert’s Mor Spirit had the best resume after winning his last three starts, including the Grade 1 Met Mile at Belmont Park in June. He started as the 5/2 favorite under Mike Smith. Mor Spirit had not raced since that win in June and could only finish eighth.
Baffert said afterwards that he had probably not managed to get enough work into the colt and that he could not blame him for tiring. Smith said he felt he had Mor Spirit in a good spot after breaking well from gate six and tracking the leaders but that the colt did not seem to ‘want it’ which was totally out of character. It is difficult for any horse to ‘want it’ if the fuel gauge hits empty and his legs turn to jelly.
Baffert’s other trainee, the talented but inconsistent Cupid started at 11/1 under Rafael Bejarano but he was having one of his no show days and finished dead last, beaten 14 lengths. Baffert admitted he was disappointed.
John Sadler must have been very disappointed too that his third favorite Accelerate (4/1) finished with only Cupid behind him. Accelerate usually lives up to his name and runs prominently but he was always at the back of the pack and never looked likely to get involved at any point. Accelerate had form at the track, winning the TVG San Diego Handicap there in July and beating a below par Arrogate 15 lengths. Whilst Cupid is known for having bad days Accelerate is not, he has been incredibly consistent this year and was probably feeling the effects of a long campaign.
Was it a truly run race?
There were no bad luck stories in this Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. When the pacesetter finishes a close second it suggests it was a truly run race that did not favor horses that were kept away from unsustainable early fractions.
So why did a long shot win? If the ‘best’ horses do not show on the day anything can happen and it did, especially on a track that does not suit every horse.
Hollendorfer thought Battle Of Midway’s victory was achieved because he was not only in great shape but running on a course that he enjoyed. Battle Of Midway had proved he was a class act when he came third in the Kentucky Derby but his victory at Del Mar in the Shared Belief Stakes in late August proved that he could act on the track. Del Mar does not showcase the ability of every horse and this Breeders’ Cup result suggests that course form really counts.