The Shared Belief Stakes, for 3-year-olds at one mile on the main track, was renamed in 2016, after a 41-year run as the El Cajon, for one of the top sophomore runners of recent years who became, in 2014, the fifth from that age group to win the $1 million TV Pacific Classic.
The Shared Belief was won last year by Accelerate who, came back this summer to defeat Arrogate in the San Diego Handicap and finish third in the Pacific Classic.
For Saturday's 43rd overall, and second as the Shared Belief, the $100,000 event will feature two runners who participated in the Triple Crown series last spring – Gormley and Battle of Midway – with the latter being the only one of seven entrants experiencing Del Mar for the first time.
Battle of Midway, a Kentucky-bred son of Smart Strike, was unraced at two, but has three wins from seven 2017 starts and earnings of $560,000. He finished second to Gormley in the Santa Anita Derby and was third in the Kentucky Derby.
A wire-to-wire romp in the Affirmed at Santa Anita in June prompted a fruitless sixth-of-seven run in the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth that brought the Winstar Farm colorbearer back to California.
“I don't know about a mile and a quarter for him, so even if all had gone well in the Haskell we might not have gone on to (Saturday's $1 million) Travers,” Dan Ward, assistant to Jerry Hollendorfer, said Thursday morning.
“The timing is good for this race, 27 days after the last, and if he runs well it will set him up for one of the two races we have in mind for him next month.”
The $1 million Pennsylvania Derby is September 23 in Philadelphia and the $400,000 Oklahoma Derby is September 24 at Remington Park.
Battle of Midway drew the outside post, which Ward said could be a benefit.
“He's run well from a stalking position and the outside post gives us that option,” Ward said. “We'll let (Flavien Prat) play the break see how the race develops.”
The field from the rail: Cistron (Tyler Baze, 8-1), True Valor (Drayden Van Dyke, 20-1), Gormley (Victor Espinoza, 5-2), Gato Del Oro (Rafael Bejarano, 4-1), Stone Hands (Evin Roman, 20-1), Klimt (Joe Talamo, 3-1) and Battle of Midway (Flavien Prat, 2-1).
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