August 10, 2022

RIP, Battle of Midway

Battle of Midway with Flavien Prat aboard wins the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile (G1) at Del Mar on Friday, November 3, 2017 (c) Jamie Newell/Horsephotos.com

The twists and turns of Battle of Midway’s biography reached a heartbreaking conclusion Saturday morning. The 2017 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) winner, who returned from a stint at stud last year and just outgamed McKinzie in the February 2 San Pasqual (G2), suffered a fatal injury in a workout at Santa Anita.

Owned by Don Alberto Stable and WinStar Farm, Battle of Midway was about to bring his connections to the March 30 Dubai World Cup (G1), with a possible prep in the March 9 Santa Anita H. (G1). The Jerry Hollendorfer trainee had already returned to the worktab, covering a half-mile in :48.60 February 12, and the Hall of Famer sent him out Saturday for a follow-up drill.

Battle of Midway broke down in upper stretch, as first reported by the Blood-Horse, sustaining irreparable injuries in a hind pastern. The devastating news was confirmed by his co-owners on social media.

Battle of Midway was bred in Kentucky by Erik and Pavla Nygaard’s Thor-Bred Stables. By Smart Strike and out of Grade 1 winner Rigoletta, he was sold to Rick Porter’s Fox Hill for $410,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling.

Read all about Battle of Midway’s early life in his episode of “Tales from the Crib”

Porter gave him a World War II-themed name, a Pacific Theater parallel to his earlier colorbearer Normandy Invasion, which marked the turning point in the European Theater. His current Kentucky Derby (G1) hopeful, Omaha Beach, brings us back to Normandy.

Unraced at two, Battle of Midway emerged as a classic contender for Hollendorfer in the spring of 2017. The bay was an impressive debut winner sprinting, but after a third in the San Vicente (G2), he improved on the stretch-out to two turns. He captured an allowance over Don Alberto’s ill-fated homebred Reach the World and just missed in the Santa Anita Derby (G1).

At that point, Don Alberto and WinStar teamed up to purchase Battle of Midway privately. His first start for new owners came in the Kentucky Derby, where he was a valiant third. Battle of Midway went on to romp in the Affirmed H. (G3) and Shared Belief, a poignant win considering the namesake was himself trained by Hollendorfer. A runner-up effort in the Oklahoma Derby (G3) set him up for his signature win in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile over Sharp Azteca.

Battle of Midway retired to WinStar full of hopes for his stallion potential as a son of Smart Strike, already responsible for Curlin, English Channel, and Looking at Lucky. But he proved subfertile, getting only a few mares in foal.

In fine fettle to mount a comeback, Battle of Midway returned to training and finished a distant second in the August 25 Pat O’Brien (G2) at Del Mar. Next came a fifth in the Kelso (G2) at Belmont, but he’d reduced his losing margin significantly to 2 1/2 lengths. The “third off the layoff” angle worked as he dominated the October 28 Comma to the Top back at Santa Anita.

Battle of Midway showed he’d lost none of his old scrappiness when outdueling Dabster in the November 25 Native Diver (G3), over a nine-furlong trip that seemed a shade far earlier in his career. He was run down by Gift Box by a half-length in the San Antonio (G2), but came right back to claim the ballyhooed McKinzie in the San Pasqual. That final victory advanced his resume to 16-8-4-2, $1,589,049.

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

Battle of Midway sinks McKinzie in San Pasqual

Battle of Midway leaves a legacy of soul-stirring gameness down the stretch, and the just-arriving foals of his one tiny crop.