ELMONT, N.Y. – It wouldn’t be fair to make a judgment on Battle of Midway’s level of competitiveness as a Breeders’ Cup contender based on his lone start this year, a well-beaten second to the undefeated Catalina Cruiser in the Grade 2 Pat O’Brien Stakes at Del Mar.
Saturday should provide a better barometer of Battle of Midway when he makes his second start of his comeback in the Grade 2, $300,000 Kelso Handicap at Belmont Park, where he won’t face a horse the caliber of Catalina Cruiser.
Battle of Midway will meet six opponents in the Kelso, a race he is likely to use as a stepping-stone to attempt a repeat in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Churchill Downs on Nov. 3.
Battle of Midway, owned by WinStar Farm and Don Alberto, was retired and sent to stud duty following his 3-year-old season last year, which included a third-place finish in the Kentucky Derby and a win in the Dirt Mile. But Battle of Midway was found to be subfertile after impregnating just five of 60 mares during the breeding season.
In the Pat O’Brien, Battle of Midway bobbled leaving the gate, but otherwise got a good trip. Still, Catalina Cruiser drew away from him to win by 7 1/4 lengths.
“I don’t think we were going to beat that horse that day,” said Dan Ward, assistant to trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. “The race kind of got his mind back on racing. He’s got three good works since the race.”
On Sept. 8, Battle of Midway worked five furlongs in 58.80 seconds. He came back a week later and worked six furlongs in 1:12.60.
Battle of Midway will break from the rail under Flavien Prat and high weight of 123 pounds. He is spotting the rest of the field five to seven pounds.
“He can make his own style,” Ward said. “If they go fast he can sit, or he can go.”
Trainer Chad Brown sends out the uncoupled entry of Timeline and Patternrecognition. Timeline won the Grade 3 Peter Pan over this track at age 3, but has lost stakes at Belmont and Saratoga in his last two starts.
“Getting him back to one turn over this racetrack that he’s done well on in the past I think is going to be good for him,” Brown said.
Patternrecognition, a 5-year-old with only nine starts, is coming off a solid allowance win at Saratoga on Aug. 11. He is making his stakes debut here.
“He’s a horse we always thought a lot of,” Brown said. “I like the distance of the race for him.”
Still Having Fun won the Grade 2 Woody Stephens here in June before finishing fifth in the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens at Saratoga. Though Still Having Fun is cross-entered in Saturday’s Grade 3 Gallant Bob at six furlongs, trainer Tim Keefe opted for the one-turn mile.
“The way he ran in the Woody Stephens, he certainly could have gone another furlong,” Keefe said. “Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll get the same kind of pace in the Kelso we got in the Woody Stephens.”
Sunny Ridge beat Timeline in the State Dinner Stakes going one turn here in July. Realm has won his last two starts. No Dozing comes out of a fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Forego.
– additional reporting by Jim Dunleavy
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.
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