May 19, 2024

Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile Quotes & Transcript

Battle of Midway with Flavien Prat up wins the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile (G1) at Del Mar on Friday, November 3, 2017 (c) Lauren J. Pomeroy/

Friday, November 3, 2017

Winning trainer Jerry Hollendorfer (Battle of Midway)

“He’s a horse for the course. He loves Del Mar. He had run a huge number here (when winning the Shared Belief Stakes). We had a lot of confidence in him coming into this race.

“I talked to Flavien (Prat) and we agreed there was a lot of speed in the race. At the break he was able to follow John Sadler’s horse (Accelerate) and got a good position. This horse has always been a fighter and he showed that today. He showed a lot of courage in winning this race.”

Winning jockey Flavien Prat (Battle of Midway)

“I let him break and find position and was wide early. I thought there would be more pace. Then down the backside he relaxed well and gave me a really good kick. He was training really well in the morning.”

Second-place trainer Jorge Navarro (Sharp Azteca)

“When the four horse (Gato del Oro) went by, it stuck him down on the rail and he had nowhere to go. But, he dug in through the stretch and tried hard. He showed up and I’m really proud.”

Second-place jockey Paco Lopez (Sharp Azteca)

“That was a tough beat. I didn’t want to go to the lead but my horse broke sharp and the horse (Gato Del Oro) came to my outside.  I had to go to the lead. The horse tried all the way. He kept running but just got caught.”

Third-place trainer Mark Casse (Awesome Slew)

“We couldn’t be more proud of him. We thought he came into this race wonderful and he ran his eyeballs out so we’re happy. The pace was a little slow. I knew down the backside that we were in a little trouble. I thought we were too close, and going too easy. That tells you something.”

Third-place jockey John Velazquez (Awesome Slew)

“He ran really good. He was in a good position, saved all the ground. We kept running, but he was third best.”

Trainer Bob Baffert (beaten favorite Mor Spirit, eighth)

“I was afraid that with Mor Spirit going in that I couldn’t get enough into him. He just got tired. I was disappointed in Cupid (10th). Maybe it was too short for him. He chased a little bit. If they don’t show up, they don’t show up. I’m happy for Jerry Hollendorfer. I’m a big fan of his, so I’m happy for him.”

Jockey Mike Smith (beaten favorite Mor Spirit, eighth)

“I was in a really good spot. He just didn’t want it today. That’s not him. He just let go.”

Friday, November 3, 2017

Elliott Walden
Fernando Diaz-Valdes
Carlos Heller
Kenny Troutt
Jerry Hollendorfer

THE MODERATOR: All right. The winner of the Las Vegas Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile was Battle of Midway, and we’re pleased now to be joined by winning trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. Jerry, thanks for being with us. This is Jerry’s second win in the Dirt Mile, and Flavien is actually riding the next race, I believe. But hopefully we’ll be joined by some of the ownership shortly.

JERRY HOLLENDORFER: Yeah, I think Kenny’s coming.

THE MODERATOR: Well, congrats to you. Maybe, for starters, you can take us through the race as you saw it.

JERRY HOLLENDORFER: Well, you know, I wanted the horse to break well, and he did, and that allowed Flavien to sit in a good spot behind the speed. We thought there would be speed. So Flavien actually rode a perfect race. He got him over just enough to save a little bit of ground. The outside post helped us because then he wasn’t pushed down inside with nowhere to go.

THE MODERATOR: Another question for Jerry here, if you could just tell us really quick about his campaign this year, and when you look at him on paper, obviously, middle distances, he’s exceptional, but you did try to stretch him out a few times, so could you just talk about the campaign?

JERRY HOLLENDORFER: We bought the horse with the thought of running him in the Kentucky Derby, and the timing was right, and he did run well in the Derby. Then, you know, we ran a couple of races where he didn’t run that well. Then our horse finally found himself here at Del Mar in the Shared Belief Mile and ran a huge race, winning by 6 and running a big number. So we felt all along that we could run in the Breeders’ Cup Mile with him liking the racetrack and him looking like he could be a pretty good miler.

We used the Oklahoma Derby as a prep for this race, and we got a little bit unlucky in the first turn. He got bounced around, but he still ran a very game race and never gave up. So we never gave up on him either.

Q. Elliott, maybe you could tell us about acquiring this horse, and how the partnership with Don Alberto came together.

ELLIOTT WALDEN: Well, Fernando Diaz, who is on the end, was the one who put it together. And Fernando and I have done a few deals together with Carlos Heller from Don Alberto. Fernando called me and said that Jerry Hollendorfer really believed in this horse, and Mr. Porter was selling him, and Jerry wanted to keep him. He felt like he was a really, really good horse. So I called Jerry, and Jerry, we haven’t done a lot of business together, but it’s been a great experience, and we’ll do some more.

Q. Jerry, how about Prat and his ride? I know he’s a jockey that’s ridden for you quite a bit and you gave him his start here at Del Mar. How about him and what he did today?

JERRY HOLLENDORFER: Well, when Prat came around, Richard Mandella started riding him, and I think that perked a few people up. If Richard would use him, then everybody else thought that they should give him a chance too. And he’s just gradually worked his way into our program, and we ride him on a lot of horses. We thought that he would fit Battle of Midway, and he’s come and worked him almost every time. He only missed one time working him.

But he’s worked with the horse all along, so he deserves a lot of credit. You know, we’ve taught the horse to come a little bit off the pace and not quite be so speed oriented. So Prat helped us do that, definitely.

THE MODERATOR: Representing the Don Alberto operation, we’re joined by Carlos Heller, the president of Bethia Holdings, as well as Fernando Diaz-Valdes, who advises as well. So congratulations to both of you. And I believe we have a question.

Q. Just the decision to put the blinkers on, what prompted that and how much of a difference has that made? Obviously it’s made quite a lot for the last couple of races.

JERRY HOLLENDORFER: Well, you know, we do that when we think a horse isn’t giving us the most. So Flavien’s suggestion was why don’t we try some little blinkers on him, because he was running, but not really focusing on things the way that he wanted him to. So we didn’t put any big semi-blinkers on him, but just little quarter-horse blinkers with the half-inch cup. So it just helps him to focus just a little bit better. But sometimes a little thing turns into a big thing.

Q. Jerry, there is a theory, horses for courses, and obviously you saw something in the race a couple races back with Battle of Midway. What is it about Del Mar and what is it about your horse that he likes Del Mar so much?

JERRY HOLLENDORFER: Well, that’s an unknown, but we did discuss that with Elliott and Kenny and Fernando. So, you know, we were all aware that our horse really liked this racetrack.

So that was one of the factors of deciding on running him here at Breeders’ Cup time.

Q. (In Spanish.)

CARLOS HELLER: This has been a dream come true. I love this sport, and I’m absolutely delighted that I have this beautiful partnership, and we’re excited about tomorrow also. Such a beautiful race.

Q. Talk, if you could, a little about Flavien and what he’s doing at that age, the derby and then this race?

JERRY HOLLENDORFER: Well, he’s a very young rider, but obviously talented. He’s just come on the scene. He was riding in France and decided to come here and give it a try.

You know, a rider works his way into your barn, you know. And the more they win, the more you have to try to use them. So that’s the way we feel about Prat. We’d like to try to get him on a lot of horses, and he helps us win a lot of races also.

Q. Does he have a unique personality in any way?

JERRY HOLLENDORFER: Just really nice to work with, unlike me. (Laughter.) But really nice to work with him. The temperament between Flavien and myself is very calm and collected. I’m very pleased to work with him. It’s been a very big pleasure for me.

Q. Kenny, just talk about how this all came together, as well as the team?

KENNY TROUTT: With all this? Well, through Elliott. You know, he came up and they all met and talked it through and worked everything out, and we were very, very excited about it. Then when I saw everything up to that point and everything, I was very excited about it too. So, that’s kind of where we got it. Then today was great, great, great day. He fought it out. He showed that he was a real racehorse and he wanted to win.

Q. Congratulations.


Q. What is the plan for Battle of Midway going forward? Is he going to race as a four-year-old?

JERRY HOLLENDORFER: You know, I’m embarrassed to say I don’t really have a plan after this. This was the point race, and we got that job done, so we’re going to try to enjoy that for a while. Then we’ll look and see what both sides want to do here, the owners, and try to — I’d sure like to run him as a four-year-old. (Laughing.) Elliott, you didn’t answer.

ELLIOTT WALDEN: No, we really haven’t discussed it. Jerry has — the neat thing about Battle of Midway is his consistency. We talk about how he likes Del Mar, but actually he’s only been off the board once this year. And to dance all the dances that he’s danced to start the year in January and finish here in November, Cross Country, Derby, Haskell, back here, I do think the mile is probably his best distance, mile and a 16th. And I think if you go back and look at the Derby, we were really, really excited at the quarter pole. So he continued on gamely. He fought hard to the wire, finished third. But Jerry said all along once the Haskell was run that he would run very well here, and he wanted to point him for the mile. That was even before he ran at Del Mar.

Q. I was wondering what the background was between the two partners, have you had horses before together?

ELLIOTT WALDEN: The first horse we had was last year. Fernando came to us and bought a very significant interest in Tourist. So the great thing about Fernando and Carlos, and Liliana is the commitment that they’re making to this industry. They’re a real powerhouse, and having Unique Bella, and they have horses all over the country. So those are the kind of people that we want to do business with. People that are reputable, that are good, fun people to be with. And Carlos and his team, it’s been a great match.

They have Tourist in Chile right now standing in the Southern hemisphere, and we’ve bred a lot of good mares to him, and very excited about his future as well. It’s just exciting. I don’t know how — Kenny, I don’t know what’s going to happen next year. I can just tell you right now. (Laughing.)

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports