ARCADIA, Calif. (March 21, 2009) – With front-running You Got Me Rocking a late scratch due to a minor injury, Midships assumed the pace-setting role Saturday and ran away with Santa Anita’s 58th running of the Grade II, $150,000 San Luis Rey Handicap at 1 ½ miles on turf.

Victor Espinoza sent the Juddmonte Farms’ British import to the lead at the outset, guided the 4-year-old roan through moderate fractions, and the 5-2 third choice came home strongly to score by 1 3/4 lengths over Medici Code while covering the marathon distance in 2:25.63.

It was the third start in this country and the first U.S. victory for the Kentucky-bred son of Mizzen Mast trained by Bobby Frankel. He had previously finished 5 ¼ lengths behind You Got Me Rocking in a mile-and-one eighth allowance event over the Santa Anita turf on Feb. 26.

Artiste Royal, the 2-1 favorite in the field of six, checked in third, 3 1/2 lengths behind Medici Code. After breaking slowly, he could never effectively rally into the measured pace scenario that included fractions of 48.53 for the half mile, 1:13.61 for six furlongs, and 1:38.58 for one mile. “He stumbled at the start,” noted trainer Neil Drysdale, who maintained that the start cost his horse the race.

Spring House, the 2-1 second choice, never appeared to be comfortable after pressing the early pace. He faded to last. Spring House was vanned off the track afterward with no obvious physical injury.

“Bobby (Frankel) told me to just let him run free,” Espinoza said 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.”

According to Frankel, Midships was ridden incorrectly while chasing You Got Me Rocking when fourth as the 3-5 favorite in his previous outing. “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 on Sunday.

You Got Me Rocking was scratched by trainer Mike Mitchell after sustaining minor injuries during a Saturday morning van ride from his training base at Hollywood Park.

Midships paid $7, $4.80 and $3 for his San Luis Rey triumph. Medici Code, ridden by Joel Rosario, paid $5.80 and $3. The show price on Artiste Royal, with Rafael Bejarano aboard, was $2.10.

The victory was the first in a graded or group stakes race for Midships, who posted a 2-3-2 record in 10 British races before finishing third in his United States debut, Hollywood Park’s Grade I Hollywood Derby at 1 ¼ miles last Nov. 30.

“I didn’t realize he could run a mile-and-a-half,” commented Frankel. “I thought he could, and he came through.” Frankel said he would consider running Midships in the Grade II, $200,000 San Juan Capistrano Handicap at 1 ¾ miles over turf on the Santa Anita meet’s closing day, April 19.

Midships earned $90,000 for his biggest career victory. The purse increased his career total to $225,830 from an overall record of 3-3-3 in 13 races.

In a supporting feature on Saturday, Joy Ride Stable’s Noble Court rallied to defeat Dodgen Bullets by 1 ½ lengths in the $71,300 Joe Hernandez Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs over Santa Anita’ hillside turf course. Euroglide finished third. Ridden by Rosario for trainer John Sadler, Noble Court was timed in 1:12.16 and paid $15.40 for the win.
On Sunday at Santa Anita, Hall of Fame trainer Frankel will send out favored Vista while in search of his ninth Santa Ana Handicap winner in the last 18 runnings of the Grade II, $150,000 event for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles on turf. First post for the nine-race program is at 12:30 p.m.