Battle of Midway's connections were looking for a Betfair.com Haskell Invitational Stakes (G1) prep June 24 in the $100,000 Affirmed Stakes (G3), and they accomplished their mission at Santa Anita Park.
The Smart Strike colt earned his first graded stakes win with a frontrunning, 4 1/4-length score in the 1 1/16-mile stakes, but had to work a bit during the middle stages under pressure by second choice B Squared.
Only a head in front through six furlongs as B Squared moved alongside, the third-place finisher from the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) shook off his rival and powered home to win easily under jockey Flavien Prat.
"I think he's showing that he's coming into being a good horse and able to run against top competition," winning trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said of the colt owned by Don Alberto Stable and WinStar Farm. "We want to look at (the Haskell). That's the race we've talked about. That doesn't mean we're absolutely going to do that. There are a few real tough horses that might go in that race, but we might run in there anyway."
Battle of Midway, off at 1-9, set fractions of :24.50, :48.88, and 1:12.86 through six furlongs. He covered a mile in 1:36.73 and hit the wire in 1:43.25.
"It's easier to win (with a :24.50 quarter)," Prat said. "We didn't go super fast the first part. I think it's better (for him) to run at a target and a good pace, but we were comfortable on the lead and he did a great job."
"My horse ran huge," Gutierrez said. "He tried very hard. Every time I tried to get close to (Battle of Midway), that horse responded and he gradually got away from us."
Battle of Midway has hit the board in all four of his graded starts. Along with his Derby placing, he ran second in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) and third in the San Vicente (G2).
Bred in Kentucky by Thor-Bred Stables out of the Concerto mare Rigoletta, Battle of Midway now has three wnis from six starts and $550,000 in earnings. He was a $410,000 purchase by Fox Hill Farm at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale in 2015 and was privately purchased in late April, before his Kentucky Derby run.