Midcourt Dictates Terms And Takes Grade II, $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes By 3 ½ Lengths Under Espinoza; Trained By Shirreffs, He Gets 1 1/8 Miles In 1:48.49 And Is Headed To Grade I Santa Anita Handicap
ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 1, 2020)–In a performance that perhaps stamps him as an “A-Lister” in the handicap division, C R K Stables’ Midcourt was in command throughout as he powered to an emphatic 3 ½ length win in Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes, an important prep for the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap on March 7. Trained by John Shirreffs and ridden by Victor Espinoza, Midcourt got a mile and one eighth in 1:48.49.
“Victor wasn’t sure if he was going to go to the lead or sit off the pace, but the horse put himself in the race and if he wanted to run that way, he didn’t want to take him out of it,” said Shirreffs. “Yes, it is gratifying to see him make the lead, relax and finish like he did. He’s been a project, but a good project. We’ll stay home and run in the Santa Anita Handicap (at a mile and one quarter).”
Slow from the gate and carried wide into the first turn in the Grade II San Antonio Stakes Dec. 28, Midcourt broke alertly today and for those who backed him at 2-1, it appeared he was going to be extremely tough the way the race unfolded heading into the Club House turn, as Midcourt enjoyed a roughly two length advantage while in-hand.
A well beaten third in the San Antonio, Midcourt was the second choice among a field of nine older horses and paid $6.40, $3.60 and $3.00.
“With him, you never know how he is gonna perform coming out of the gate,” said Espinoza, who has ridden the 5-year-old gelded son of Midnight Lute in his last five races, winning four of them. “Today, he wanted to run. He broke not very quick, but when I encouraged him to go, he wanted to do his own thing. I wasn’t going to take him out of his race, so I just let him run and cruise around…
“He’s a really talented horse in his own way. I have confidence in him because John Shirreffs has done an amazing job with him and it makes my job easier to know that John is going to have him ready to go into the race.”
In garnering his second graded stakes win, Midcourt is now 9-5-1-1 and with the winner’s share of $120,000, he now has earnings of $342,695.
Longshot Two Thirty five, ridden by Ruben Fuentes, was attentive to the pace and was second best on the day, finishing 2 ¼ lengths clear of Combatant. Off at 22-1, Two Thirty Five paid $14.20 and $8.20.
With Drayden Van Dyke up, Combatant was off at 18-1 and paid $6.20 to show.
Last year’s Santa Anita Derby winner Roadster, the 9-5 favorite with Joel Rosario up, was never a factor and finished seventh.
Fractions on the race were 23.50, 47.31, 1:11.26 and 1:36.22.