ARCADIA, Calif. - Trainer Bob Baffert called Midshipman a "basket case" when he was training in Del Mar earlier this summer. Now, Bob Baffert hopes he can call Midshipman a champion.
Midshipman's maturation continued Saturday at Santa Anita with a front-running victory in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile, a victory that may just earn him an Eclipse Award as the nation's top 2-year-old colt. Midshipman, under Garrett Gomez, won by 1 1/4 lengths over Square Eddie, who finished a half-length ahead of Street Hero.
Midshipman added the Juvenile to a resume that includes the Del Mar Futurity, giving him two Grade 1 victories. That's the same number as Vineyard Haven, who was purposely kept out of the Juvenile by owner/trainer Bobby Frankel.
"He did it going two turns, he beat the best, and that's what it's about," Baffert said when asked if his horse should be crowned champion. "It's the Breeders' Cup - you have to run in it."
Baffert wanted Midshipman to run the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in a different fashion than he had his previous race, the Norfolk, where he was well off the pace and finished second to Street Hero. Baffert wanted Gomez to take advantage of the colt's ability to break well and put Midshipman into the race. Neither Baffert nor Gomez - who was riding Midshipman for the first time - necessarily wanted Midshipman on the lead, however.
Midshipman dueled with Square Eddie, under Rafael Bejarano, through a half-mile in a modest 47.08 seconds. Bejarano backed Square Eddie off the pace, but Gomez kept Midshipman going. He ran six furlongs in 1:10.61. Turning for home, Gomez hit Midshipman twice left-handed and once right-handed and Midshipman was able to fend off Square Eddie and Street Hero. Midshipman, a son of the 1995 Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner, Unbridled's Song, covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:40.94 and returned $9.20 to win.
"He went about his business really well and hung on against a really nice racehorse," said Gomez, who won his third Breeders' Cup race of the two-day event.
Midshipman was making his first start in Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum's Darley Stable colors. Darley recently closed a deal to purchase most of the racing assets of Janice and Robert McNair's Stonerside Stable, the breeder and previous owner of Midshipman.
"When they turn for home you find out what they're really made of," said Baffert, who won his sixth Breeders' Cup race and second Juvenile. "Sometimes they turn for home, they don't kick on. That means they can't go long. But when he kicked on for home he showed he's the real deal."
Where and how Midshipman prepares for next year's Kentucky Derby is uncertain. John Ferguson, a racing adviser for Sheikh Mohammed said "there's every possibility" the horse could winter in Dubai and be transferred to trainer Saeed bin Suroor, but "nothing's definite."
Oak Tree at Santa Anita, 5th Race - October 25, 2008