March 4, 2024

Battle of Midway, Girvin among familiar faces in Oklahoma Derby

Battle of Midway added blinkers and blew his rivals out of the water in the Shared Belief © BENOIT PHOTO

The 2017 3-year-old crop doesn’t feature the quality at top of recent years but has displayed plenty of depth. Sunday’s $400,000 Oklahoma Derby (G3) at Remington Park serves as a perfect example, with three of the eight entrants having raced in the Kentucky Derby (G1). None of the 11 starters last year competed in a Triple Crown event.

Kentucky Derby third-placer Battle of Midway has been installed as the 2-1 morning line favorite following a 6 ¼-length romp over a nice field in the August 26 Shared Belief at Del Mar. An easy winner of the Affirmed (G3) in first start after the Kentucky Derby, Battle of Midway followed with a disappointing sixth in the Haskell Invitational (G1).

Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer elected to add blinkers after the Haskell and the headgear appeared to make a difference, with Battle of Midway rating comfortably off the early leaders before launching his move into the far turn last time. Regular rider Flavien Prat will be in to guide the Smart Strike colt.

Girvin captured the TwinSpires Louisiana Derby (G2) and Risen Star (G2) earlier in the season but his Kentucky Derby preparations were compromised by a foot issue and he never fired after a troubled start and checked in 13th. He came back with a nose second to Irap in the Ohio Derby (G3) and registered his first Grade 1 tally when gamely taking the Haskell.

The Haskell probably took something out of him as the son of Tale of Ekati followed with a dull 11th in the Travers (G1) and Girvin should appreciate the cutback to the 1 1/8-mile distance Sunday. He’s listed as the 7-2 second choice and Robby Albarado keeps the mount for Joe Sharp.

Untrapped was also on the Triple Crown trail, placing in a trio of stakes before checking in 12th on the first Saturday in May, and the Steve Asmussen-trained colt exits a pair of decent thirds to Irap in the Ohio Derby and Indiana Derby (G3). Ricardo Santana Jr. has the call on the early 5-1 shot.

West Virginia Derby (G2) winner Colonelsdarktemper is the 9-2 third choice on the morning line. The speedy colt exits a third to the up-and-coming Pavel in the Smarty Jones (G3) and Jon Court will be up on the Jinx Fires trainee.

Gato Del Oro merits a look in his second stakes attempt. A nice maiden and entry-level allowance scorer in Southern California this summer, the Richard Baltas-trained colt finished second as the favorite in the Shared Belief. Rafael Bejarano accompanies the son of Medaglia d’Oro.

Rounding out the field are Iowa Derby (G3) runner-up McCormick; multiple Grade 3-placed B Squared; and recent claimer Altito.