Sports

Hollendorfer springs Breeders’ Cup surprise with Battle of Midway

Jockey Flavien Prat, center, celebrates aboard Battle of Midway after beating second-place Sharp Azteca, ridden by jockey Paco Lopez, in the Las Vegas Dirt Mile horse race during the first day of the Breeders' Cup on Friday in Del Mar.
Jockey Flavien Prat, center, celebrates aboard Battle of Midway after beating second-place Sharp Azteca, ridden by jockey Paco Lopez, in the Las Vegas Dirt Mile horse race during the first day of the Breeders' Cup on Friday in Del Mar. AP

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer made a minor equipment change that proved a huge difference for Battle of Midway. At the suggestion of jockey Flavien Prat, Hollendorfer put blinkers on the 3-year-old colt to sharpen his focus.

The result: With Prat aboard, Battle of Midway ($30.40) won Friday’s $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Del Mar.

“Sometimes a little thing turns into a big thing,” said Hollendorfer, who also won the Dirt Mile with Dakota Phone in 2010. With two, the Northern California trainer now has the most wins in that Cup stakes.

“Flavien rode a perfect race,” Hollendorfer said. “He’s worked with the horse all along, so he deserves a lot of credit.”

Battle of Midway, a son of Smart Strike, finished third in the 2017 Kentucky Derby behind Always Dreaming. His owners – Don Alberto Stable and WinStar Farm – bought the colt from Rick Porter for an undisclosed sum two weeks before the Derby.

“Jerry really believed in this horse and he wanted to keep him,” said WinStar’s Elliott Walden. “We haven’t done a lot of business together, but it’s been a great experience, and we’ll do some more.”

In Friday’s $2 million Distaff, Forever Unbridled ($9.40) outran Kentucky Oaks winner Abel Tasman for her third consecutive victory for trainer Dallas Stewart, who also won the 2001 Distaff with Unbridled Elaine.

The only favorite to win a Cup race Friday, Mendelssohn ($11.60) – who cost $3 million as a yearling – won the Juvenile Turf for Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien and jockey Ryan Moore. The 2-year-old son of Scat Daddy is a half-brother to three-time Cup champion Beholder.

Undefeated filly Rushing Fall ($8) gave New York trainer Chad Brown his fourth victory in the Juvenile Fillies Turf.

Debbie Arrington: 916-321-1075, @debarrington.

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