“The highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows.”
A phrase bandied about amongst the horse racing industry never rings clearer than when a beloved equine athlete has been lost.
Waking up this morning to the news that Battle of Midway had suffered a catastrophic injury during a timed workout was not how I, or any of us, had planned to start our weekend. The Jerry Hollendorfer trainee was in the midst of preparing for a trip east for the $12 million Dubai World Cup, the world’s richest race, when a hind leg pastern reportedly shattered.
Everyone at Team Racing Dudes loved Battle of Midway. He was one of the first horses I ever had the pleasure of meeting. This photo was taken on August 13, 2017, on the Del Mar backside. As fierce as he was on the track, he was an affectionate sweetheart in his stable. We stumbled upon him by accident when we were searching for his stablemate, Songbird. His head poked out of his stall as we walked the shedrow, just begging to be petted and smooched. The Dudes will tell you that I was willing to spend every waking moment giving him love and attention that day.
Our thoughts are with his connections: Hollendorfer, regular rider Flavien Prat, and owners Don Alberto Stable and WinStar Farm. To celebrate a great life cut short by tragedy, we present you with Battle of Midway’s top five races:
At this point in his career, Battle of Midway had already racked up a promising statline – 3 wins in 7 starts, including his first graded stakes score in the Affirmed (G3) two months prior. There was something different about his Shared Belief win, though. After stalking the early lead, he ran three-wide in the far turn to take the lead, then drew off impressively to win by 6 1/4 lengths. His win here was a harbinger of more to come.
Battle of Midway’s breeding (by Smart Strike out of a Concerto mare) didn’t scream classic distance, and many of his best races came at either 1 or 1 1/16 miles. Yet at the end of the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby, there he was, fighting hard to finish third and far outrunning his 40/1 odds after closely tracking eventual winner Always Dreaming. “He ran his eyeballs out” is how Jared Welch described his performance. See for yourself:
Rarely does a three-horse field produce a sparkling spectacle, but the Native Diver provided exactly that. Admittedly, Isotherm was never a factor, so Battle of Midway and Dabster turned it into a match race. Racing step for step from nearly start to finish, the two colts gave fans a thrilling finish after a very game stretch run. Battle of Midway might have crossed first by a neck, but the true winners were the fans who were treated to their exhilarating tussle.
In what would be his final career start, Battle of Midway gave us the perfect example of just how hard he tried every single race. After finding himself at the rear of the five-horse field early one, Battle of Midway raced wide throughout while remaining clear of any kickback over the sloppy Santa Anita main track. Ranging up alongside the 1/2 favorite McKinzie, Battle of Midway slingshot himself off the far turn and began to creep forward. McKinzie fought hard when challenged, but Battle of Midway proved too tough and outgamed the bettors’ choice for one last trip to the winner’s circle.
Undoubtedly, the best win of Battle of Midway’s career came on the world’s biggest stage over a track that he loved. Ignored at 14/1 odds, Battle of Midway raced wide throughout most of the race before drawing even with early leader Sharp Azteca in the far turn. Together, the two commenced a stretch battle that was the most memorable of the entire championship weekend. Never was Battle of Midway more game than in his final race before temporarily retiring.
Rest easy, champ. Thank you for all you gave us. We will never forget you.