The Norfolk, at 1 1/16 miles, presents the first distance test for the trio. The event’s 39th running plus the Grade II, $200,000 Oak Tree Mile conclude Oak Tree’s portion of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge, the “Win and You’re In” ticket to the two-day Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Santa Anita on Oct. 24 and 25.
Owned and bred by Stonerside Stable, Midshipman will face nine of his peers while attempting to provide Baffert with his fifth victory in the Norfolk. Midshipman is coming off a pair of sprint scores that included the Grade I Del Mar Futurity at seven furlongs. Tyler Baze rides the Unbridled’s Song colt.
Darley Stable’s Regal Ransom has raced but once for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. The son of Distorted Humor impressed in a maiden victory while going seven furlongs at Saratoga on Aug. 25. Eastern-based jockey Alan Garcia will be here to handle Regal Ransom.
The Oak Tree Mile attracted nine entrants for its 23rd running over the Oak Tree turf. Awesome Gem and Hyperbaric would appear to be leading contenders in a wide-open competition. First post for the ten-race card is at 12:30 p.m.
The field for the Norfolk Stakes (all starters carry 122 pounds), with jockeys in post position order: Regal Ransom, Alan Garcia; Azul Leon, Rafael Bejarano; Del Conte, Victor Espinoza; Street Hero, Alex Solis; Liturgical, no rider; Midshipman, Tyler Baze; Believe in Hope, Jose Valdivia Jr.; Tiger Blitz, Martin Garcia; Silent Valor, Garrett Gomez, and Brushburn, Joseph Talamo.
The field for the Oak Tree Mile, with jockeys and weights in post position order: a-Awesome Gem, Tyler Baze, 119; Global Hunter, Valdivia, 119; Hurry Up Austin, Jon Court, 119; Tybalt, Bejarano, 119; Dilemma, Solis, 119; Ferneley, Espinoza, 123; Hyperbaric, Gomez, 119; a-Tropic Storm, Aaron Gryder, 119, and Golden Balls, David Flores. a-coupled entry.
Baffert believes Midshipman will take to the Norfolk distance. “You never know about going two turns until you do it,” he said, “but he’ll handle it pretty well. He’s a very smart horse. There’s a lot of quality there. I’m really happy with the way he’s coming into this race.”
In the Oak Tree Mile, Awesome Gem is the most accomplished entrant with earnings of $1,179,882 from a 4-8-2 record in 19 starts for West Point Thoroughbreds. The 5-year-old Awesome Again gelding, however, is winless in four starts on grass. He did finish second in three of those races including his only two at the Oak Tree Mile distance. His most notable effort might have been a third place finish behind Curlin and Hard Spun in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic at Monmouth Park. Tyler Baze rides for trainer Craig Dollase.
Hyperbaric, who won his last two starts under jockey Garrett Gomez, will be rejoined by the 2007 Eclipse Award winner on Sunday. The 5-year-old Sky Classic gelding, trained by Julio Canani for Prestonwood Farm, seems the most consistent performer in the event with a record of 5-2-2 in 10 career starts for earnings of $294,476. Although a close third last May in Hollywood Park’s Grade I Shoemaker Mile, Hyperbaric is still seeking his first graded stakes victory.
The Oak Tree Mile will be the seventh race on the program with the Norfolk to follow as the eighth.