DEL MAR, CA – C R K Stable’s Midcourt extended his win streak to four while making his graded stakes debut a successful one in Saturday’s $100,000 Native Diver Stakes (G3) at Del Mar.
Breaking from post 2 under Victor Espinoza in the scratch-shortened field of four, Midcourt changed tactics and set the early pace after none of the other runners made a bid. Given clear run heading into the clubhouse turn, Midcourt posted unpressured opening fractions of :23.55, :47.61, and 1:11.54.
Extra Hope, Two Thirty Five, and the 4/5 favorite Roadster raced in order throughout the race, with none able to make serious bids to the front. The John Shirreffs-trained Midcourt led from flags fall to that’s all, cantering across the wire 5 3/4 lengths the best n a final time of 1:48.36 for the 1 1/8-mile event over the fast main track.
“The whole thing today was I knew I had to let him do what he wants,” Espinoza said. “He’s that kind of horse. I knew there wasn’t much speed in there today. And even though he’s never been on the lead in his races, I thought he might if he broke OK. He got out of there well and I gave him just a little encouragement and he went to the front. He was going so easy doing it, I knew when it came time (that) he was really going to go.”
Perhaps the most perplexing part of the race was the non-effort from Roadster, the Bob Baffert-trained winner of the Santa Anita Derby (G1) this past spring. Even Baffert was unsure what caused the flat performance.
“He was dull,” was all Baffert told DRF.com’s Jay Privman.
Midcourt’s win followed his stakes debut win in the Comma to the Top Stakes at Santa Anita Park on October 27 and improved his career mark to 7-4-1-0 with $198,695 earned. The 4-year-old gelded son of Midnight Lute raced twice as a juvenile but failed to hit the board, then was sidelined until February 24, 2019, while making his first start for Shirreffs. Midcourt broke his maiden following that start and hasn’t lost since.
“It wasn’t the way I expected,” Shirreffs said. “I didn’t think they’d take off that soon and go to the lead, but Victor rode him great and he wanted to run today. He’s been training well, but there’s always a step up they have to take in the afternoons. You hope there’s a realization then. He’s doing really well right now, so we’ll go on to Santa Anita and see what we can do.”
Midcourt returned $7.60 to win and $4.40 to place, while Extra Hope brought $5.20 to place. There was no show betting.