The eagerly anticipated 3-year-old debut of 2008 champion juvenile male Midshipman will occur Friday, Sept. 18, in the third race at Belmont Park, a 6 1/2-furlong conditioned allowance that represents his first start over a conventional dirt track.
Midshipman, owned by Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin Stable, capped off a stellar four-race juvenile campaign last year with an impressive victory in the Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) at Oak Tree at Santa Anita Park. The Saeed bin Suroor trainee also won the Del Mar Futurity (gr. I).
After his Breeders’ Cup victory, the son of Unbridled's Song was transferred from sheikh’s American-based Darley operation to Godolphin for a winter campaign aimed at readying him for a run in the Kentucky Derby. That never materialized due to a minor soft tissue injury to his left fore leg sustained in late February during a workout at Godolphin’s Al Quoz Stables in Dubai.
Midshipman, who was trained by Bob Baffert in 2008 before his transfer to Godolphin and bin Suroor, shows a steady recent work tab starting July 18 at Belmont Park that comprises nine total workouts at either Belmont or Saratoga. He will be ridden for the first time by Richard Migliore.
“Win or lose, it’s time for him to run,” said Rick Mettee, the Godolphin assistant trainer who oversees the New York division. “We’ll have good weather on Friday and a fast track, which we thought was important for him. This will be a good test for him, to see where he fits and how he really handles the dirt, which is the most important thing.”
The test Mettee refers to will come in the form of five challengers, including impressive stakes winner Storm Play and the speedy Just Ben.
Like Midshipman, Storm Play, a 4-year-old son of Smart Strike owned by Edward Evans and trained by Todd Pletcher, will be making his 2009 debut. Also like Midshipman, Storm Play won three of four starts in 2008. He was a stakes winner at Aqueduct. He previously was trained by Jimmy Jerkens, and Friday’s allowance will mark his first start for Pletcher.
The other main challenger figures to be Just Ben, a 3-year-old colt owned by Lael Stable with three wins from seven lifetime starts, including his most recent race, a conditioned allowance at Saratoga. The son of Speightstown was trained by Nick Zito for his first six starts and was then transferred to Barclay Tagg.
Completing the field are Unbridled Danger, owned and trained by Robert S Young; More Than a Reason, owned by CP Racing Stables and trained by Randi Persaud; and Knights Cross, owned by Windmill Manor Farm and trained by Eddie Kenneally.
Post Horse Jockey Odds
1) Just Ben Ramon Dominguez 9-5
2) Midshipman Richard Migliore 3-1
3) Unbridled Danger Jose Espinoza 20-1
4) More Than a Reason Rajiv Maragh 10-1
5) Knights Cross Cornelio Velasquez 10-1
6) Storm Play John Velazquez 8-5