ARCADIA, CA – The rain may have shortened the field to five runners, but there was still a tremendous show in the stretch run on Saturday when Battle of Midway outdueled McKinzie to take the Grade 2, $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes at Santa Anita Park.
Breaking from the far outside 8 post under Flavien Prat at 2/1 odds, Battle of Midway stayed tucked right alongside the right hip of the 1/2 favorite McKinzie heading into the first turn while Giant Expectations posted quick opening fractions of :22.86, :46.09, and 1:09.33. Heading into the far turn, Battle of Midway and the Bob Baffert-trained McKinzie ranged up alongside the pacesetter, with the trio hitting the top of the stretch ready to rumble. Giant Expectations soon gave way, but the fight for first quickly became furious. The two Grade 1 winners raced stride for stride until the final 1/16, when Battle of Midway began to inch clear. The Jerry Hollendorfer trainee gamely prevailed by a 1/2-length in a final time of 1:46.95 for the 1 1/8-mile event over the sloppy (sealed) main track.
“I thought to the (Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes on December 26) when we were out on the lead and we had been pressed the whole way, it felt like he was really comfortable doing that,” Prat said. “So with the outside road today, I thought it might be better to stay outside. I think the key was being outside. The draw was very important. I dont think either horse likes to get pressure inside and I was able to stay just outside McKinzie the whole way. My horse likes to play around a little when he makes the lead, but he still finished good.”
Seemingly running too good to lose, McKinzie finished 4 1/4 lengths ahead of Giant Expectations. Pavel took fourth, while 19 lengths back, Dalmore completed the order of finish. The connections for Dabster, Shivermetimbers, and Sonneteer all chose to scratch due to the track’s racing conditions.
Battle of Midway’s win returned him to the winner’s circle since suffering the San Antonio defeat and improved his overall record to 16-8-4-2. The 5-year-old son of Smart Strike has now earned $1,589,049 for owners Don Alberto Stable and WinStar Farm.
“Very nice and good ride by Prat,” Hollendorfer said. “I thought we had our horse ready and Bob’s horse was very game, too, so it was a good race. We were kind of undecided what the speed was going to be. I thought Bob would send his horse harder, but he didn’t do that, so that kept us wide into the first turn, which was a good strategy for them. I thought we could get (McKinzie) and I thought Prat rode a great race. The other horse fought back, but we got lucky in the last couple jumps.”
Battle of Midway returned $6.80 to win, $2.60 to place, and $2.10 to show. McKinzie brought back $2.10 to place and $2.10 to show, while Giant Expectations paid $2.60 to show.