Midway Road, making just his second start since last June's Ohio Derby (gr. II), crushed a good field of handicap horses in record time while winning Thursday's $150,000 Ben Ali Handicap (gr. III) at Keeneland.
Taking command soon after the start under Robby Albarado over a sloppy track, Midway Road drew off to win by 11 1/4 lengths. He got the 1 1/8 miles in 1:46.78 on the sloppy track, lowering the previous record of 1:46 4/5 held jointly by Grand Jewel and Good Command..
The Neil Howard-trained Midway Road faced only four, but select, rivals in the 74th running of the Ben Ali following the scratches of Congrats and 2002 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Sarava.
Evening Attire, the odds-on favorite in the race based on his superior off-track form, finished second. Sir Cherokee was third.
Owned and bred by William S. Farish, Midway Road is a 4-year-old son of Jade Hunter
out of the Magesterial mare Fleet Road. He now has won four of 11 starts with one second and two thirds. He is a perfect three-for-three at Keeneland, all under Albarado. He won an entry-level allowance over the track at two in October of 2002, then won a non-winners of two "other than" allowance in the spring of his 3-year-old campaign by 11 3/4 lengths.
Following his allowance score, he ran a credible second to Funny Cide over a good track in last year's Preakness Stakes (gr. I) at Pimlico, running down Peace Rules and Scrimshaw in the lane while coming up the inside. He then ran third in the Ohio Derby at Thistledown.
This year he ran fourth in an optional claiming event at Fair Grounds on March 18.
In the Ben Ali, Midway Road tussled for the early advantage with Buckram Oak Farm's American Style early through an opening quarter of :23.77. Down the backstretch, Midway Road opened up a length advantage over American Style. It was several lengths back to Jersey Giant and Evening Attire with Sir Cherokee trailing. The half went in :46.57.
Prior to making the turn for home, after six furlongs in 1:10.51, Midway Road spurted away from his rivals. Evening Attire made some headway, as did an advancing Sir Cherokee, but Midway Road was long gone.
Midway Road gave the team of owner William S. Farish, trainer Neil Howard and Albarado their second consecutive victory in the Ben Ali. They won last year's running with Mineshaft, who went on to be voted Horse of the Year.
"He got away in good order," Albarado said of Midway Road. "I knew he was going pretty quick but he was doing it easy. He was the best horse today."
"We didn't have a strategy," said Howard. "In a short field I thought the best thing to do was let Robby make his own way. This was a big move forward for this horse."
Midway Road improved his record to 11-4-1-2 and increased his career earnings to $418,085. His second-place finish came in last year's Preakness Stakes behind Funny Cide.
Midway Road paid $12.20, $3.20, and $2.10. Evening Attire paid $2.20 and $2.10. Sir Cherokee returned $2.10 to show. The 7-2 exacta paid $24, with the quinella returning $7.60. The 7-2-6 trifecta paid $59.40.