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Midships leads them home in the San Luis Rey.
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San Luis Rey: Clear Sailing for Midships

Juddmonte homebred switches to front-running tactics for first graded stakes win.

Allowed to establish an easy lead in the 1 1/2-mile San Luis Rey Handicap (gr. IIT) (VIDEO), Midships put four rivals to bed in the homestretch while posting his first United States victory in three tries for trainer Bobby Frankel March 21.

The 4-year-old Juddmonte Farms homebred son of Mizzen Mast  responded when challenged by Medici Code leaving the final turn of the 1 1/2-mile test over the Santa Anita turf course and won by 1 3/4 lengths under a strong hand ride from Victor Espinoza. The final time was a solid 2:25.63 over firm going.

The victory was the first in a graded or group stakes race for Midships.

“I didn’t realize he could run a mile-and-a-half,” commented Frankel. “But I thought he could, and he came through.”

Frankel said he would consider running Midships in the $200,000 San Juan Capistrano Handicap (gr. IIT) at about 1 3/4 miles over turf on April 19, the Santa Anita meet’s closing day.

Medici Code, ridden by Joel Rosario, settled for second, 3 1/2 lengths in front of the late running Artiste Royal and Rafael Bejarano, the 2-1 choice in the small field. Bonjour finished fourth.

Spring House, the San Luis Obispo Handicap (gr. II) winner who was also sent off at odds of 2-1, drifted out on the final turn and reportedly bled. He did not return to be unsaddled and was taken off the course by van.

Part of a field that appeared to be without pace when You Got Me Rocking was scratched, Midships changed tactics for the San Luis Rey. Under a feathery 113 pounds, he took command shortly after the start while under a snug hold from Espinoza, who was riding the gray/roan colt for the first. time.

Midships guided the field along to the tune of :48.53 for the opening four furlongs and 1:38.58 for the mile and appeared to be fresh as could be entering the stretch. He was pressed briefly by the British-bred Medici Code, who cut the advantage to one length, but Midships responded willingly to pad his advantage by mid-stretch. Midships held Medici Code safely at bay to the wire while gradually inching away.

“Bobby told me to just let him run free,” Espinoza said in reference to Frankel after dismounting from Midships in the winner’s circle. “He left it up to me, and I was very happy with the way he broke from the gate. I was real confident with how he was running the whole way. He was running very easily.”

The Irish-bred Artiste Royal had another rough trip. The favorite hesitated coming out of the gate and stumbled, spotting his rivals several lengths. He continued to trail while chasing the soft fractions before angling out for the stretch drive and finishing gamely to get the show spot.

A two-time winner in Great Britain, the Kentucky-bred Midships broke into the American racing scene with a rallying third-place finish in the 10-furlong Hollywood Derby (gr. IT) Nov. 30. He appeared to regress, however, when a mildly closing fourth as the 3-5 choice in an optional claiming allowance heat at 1 1/8 miles in his seasonal bow Feb. 26.

According to Frankel, Midships was ridden incorrectly that day. “Garrett Gomez didn’t ride him right,” Frankel said. “If Garrett had ridden him today, he’d have ridden him the same way as Victor did.” Gomez, the nation’s leading rider, was riding in Kentucky.

Midships, out of the Sadler's Wells mare Interim, earned $90,000 for his third win in 13 starts, which boosted his career earnings to $225,830.

Sent off as the third choice, Midships paid $7.20, $4.80, and $3, topping a $2 exacta worth $45. Medici Code, who has now lost 10 races in a row since capturing the 2007 Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT) for trainer Darrell Vienna, returned $5.80 and $3. Artiste Royal, a two-time grade I winner conditioned by Neil Drysdale, was $2.10 to show.

On Fire was also scratched.