May 19, 2022

Battle of Midway edges Dabster in virtual match race in Native Diver

Battle of Midway and jockey Flavien Prat outleg Dabster under Joseph Talamo to win the Native Diver Stakes (G3) at Del Mar on November 25, 2018 © BENOIT PHOTO

Sunday’s $92,000 Native Diver (G3) at Del Mar turned into a virtual match race between Battle of Midway and Dabster after three scratched and the only other competitor, Isotherm, couldn’t keep up. In a cat-and-mouse affair, 3-5 favorite Battle of Midway outdueled even-money Dabster by a hard-fought head.

Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) hero making his fourth start back from a subfertile stint at stud, Battle of Midway deserves extra credit for his performance. The 1 1/8-mile distance was at the upper end of his stamina range, he was spotting four pounds as the 125-pound starting highweight, and he had to work from the start to beat Dabster to the lead.

With jockey Flavien Prat intent on getting the tactical upper hand in the three-horse field, Battle of Midway responded to take charge through an opening quarter in :23.60. Joe Talamo aboard Dabster wasn’t about to let him get away, so he upped the ante by poking a head in front passing the half in :47.93. Isotherm stalked until retreating and finishing the circuit in his own time, 26 lengths behind, for the third-place purse money.

Battle of Midway regained the advantage through six furlongs in 1:12.11 and dug in determinedly as they swung for home. Dabster, most recently a game second in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon (G2), gave no quarter himself as the two grappled in a stretch-long duel. Battle of Midway would not be denied, however, keeping a neck in front in a final time of 1:50.23.

The Jerry Hollendorfer trainee was recording his first victory going 1 1/8 miles. Hitherto 0-for-3 at the trip, he had finished second in both the 2017 Santa Anita Derby (G1) and Oklahoma Derby (G3). Battle of Midway’s stakes wins had come at a mile or thereabouts. Last summer he romped in the 1 1/16-mile Affirmed (G3) and the Shared Belief, held at the same Del Mar track and trip as the ensuing Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

Third in the Kentucky Derby (G1), Battle of Midway also placed in the San Vicente (G2) in his stakes debut and the August 25 Pat O’Brien (G2) in his comeback from stud duty. A lackluster fifth in the Kelso (G2) ended hopes of a Breeders’ Cup title defense. But the Don Alberto Stable and WinStar Farm runner was back in business in the October 28 Comma To the Top at Santa Anita and made it two in a row here, improving his resume to 14-7-3-2, $1,409,049.

The Native Diver field was cut in half after the withdrawals of Gift Box, who would have been debuting for John Sadler off an eight-month layoff; Roman Rosso, a stablemate of Dabster from the Bob Baffert barn; and Phil D’Amato’s Kershaw, a stablemate of Isotherm.

“We have trouble with dirt stakes,” Racing Secretary David Jerkens said in Del Mar’s Sunday notes. “A lot of the horses are concentrated in a few stables and they don’t want to run them against each other.”

Calumet Farm’s Flying Scotsman and jockey Flavien Prat win the Cecil B. DeMille Stakes (G3) at Del Mar on November 25, 2018 © BENOIT PHOTO

Later on the card, Hollendorfer and Prat turned a graded double in the $100,000 Cecil B. DeMille (G3), courtesy of Calumet Farm’s homebred Flying Scotsman. It was also a double for the sire line, with Smart Strike responsible for both Battle of Midway and Flying Scotsman’s sire, English Channel.

The even-money favorite after breaking his maiden last out in a photo at Santa Anita, Flying Scotsman moved forward to dominate this first stakes try. The flashy chestnut stalked Vantastic, engaged the leader on the far turn, and kicked away once switching to his right lead down the lane. Rijeka got up to take second from Vantastic.

Flying Scotsman, who drew off by 4 1/4 lengths while finishing the firm-turf mile in 1:34.44, is the fourth stakes winner (and sixth stakes performer) out of the French Deputy mare Padmore. She has produced Canadian champion Leigh Court, German Group 2 scorer King of Sydney, and Barracks Road along with the Grade 2-placed Star Hill and stakes-placed Bon Raison.