Robert and Janice McNair just might change their minds about getting out of racing now that their homebred Midshipman won the Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) (VIDEO) Sept. 3 closing day. The photo finish victory at seven furlongs over the synthetic surface came just several days after the McNairs announced they were selling their horses and Central Kentucky farm to Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley operation. In a bit of irony, it was Darley’s colt, Coronet of a Baron, who finished second.
Ridden by Tyler Baze, Midshipman got up in the final stride to nip Coronet of a Baron, who was beaten a nose in 1:23.35. Street Hero was another three-quarters of a length back, with previously unbeaten Southern Exchange a half-length behind him.
Midshipman, by Unbridled's Song, now has won both starts, with his initial triumph coming at 5 1/2 furlongs at Del Mar Aug. 17. His earnings from the $250,000 Futurity, $150,000, boosted his total to an even $180,000.
For trainer Bob Baffert, the victory was like old times. He won his first Futurity in 1996 with future great Silver Charm and didn’t stop winning until 2002 with Icecoldbeeratreds. If you’re counting, that was seven in a row. It took some time for No. 8, but it was well worth the wait.
Southern Exchange, whose three wins had come at Woodbine, and Coronet of a Baron were the first to enter the stretch and were soon joined by Street Hero nearest the rail and Midshipman to the outside of Coronet of a Baron. Southern Exchange, between Street Hero and Coronet of a Baron, was the first to weaken. Midshipman kept closing on Coronet of a Baron and passed him in the nick of time.
“How much horse is he? Here he runs two weeks ago, and then he comes back and runs like this,” said Baze, who won his first Del Mar Futurity. “He’s very talented. He's a special horse. Today, it all just worked right. We got a spot going down the backside and then I went wide to get them. He was running; all the way. That last sixteenth of a mile I didn’t know if I was going to get there. But then the last 20 yards I did. He’s something. And he’ll run all day. As far as they want.”
Corey Nakatani, who rode Coronet of a Baron, was pleased with his colt’s effort. “He ran his butt off. He ran great. Tough beat. I was right where I wanted to be all the way around. The winner has to go five wide and I’m inside him. But the winner came and got us. What are you going to do?”
To Baffert, the victory came somewhat as a surprise. “We didn’t even know if he could run until his first gate work down here,” he said. “You know, they really start developing and getting fit this time of year. What he showed today was terrific talent, and Tyler rode him great. He rode with a lot of confidence, which is what I told him to do. The only other order for Tyler was to get outside the minute you can. I didn’t want him down there inside. And Tyler did exactly what we wanted. And then the rest was talent on the part of the horse.”
According to Baffert, Midshipman might run next in the Sept. 28 Norfolk Breeders’ Cup Stakes (gr. I) at Oak Tree at Santa Anita.
A Kentucky-bred, Midshipman was produced from the Avenue of Flags mare Fleet Lady.
Midshipman paid $14.60, $8.60, and $5.60; Coronet of a Baron rewarded his backers with $8.40 and $5.60; and Street Hero returned $5.20.
Finishing behind Southern Exchange, who carried top weight of 123 pound and went off the 5-2 favorite, were Believe in Hope, Escalon, Blazing Spirit, Wild Wild Posse, Kerwin’s Way, Kelly Leak, and Mensa Heat.
The early fractions were :23.34 :46.53 and 1:10.73.