01/06/2011 8:31PM

2010 Eclipse Awards: Dangerous Midge

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Barbara D. Livingston

The races at Doncaster racecourse in England on April 17, 2010, were fairly far down the list of major racing events among the six British tracks operating that day. The seven-race evening program was one for bettors, purists anxious to see the flat season get going, families seeking an outing, and the South Yorkshire party crowd. For those paying attention, the fifth race on the day was won by a colt who would go on to much greater things in the next seven months.

Dangerous Midge won the $16,200 Society Lifestyle Magazine Handicap over 1 1/4 miles on turf by five lengths that day at Doncaster, his first start of 2010. By the end of the year, Dangerous Midge had won two more important races in England and one very important race in the United States – the $3 million Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchill Downs on Nov. 6.

The BC Turf was Dangerous Midge’s first start outside of England, and his victory was the accomplishment that earned the colt an Eclipse Award nomination as the outstanding turf male of 2010.

Through most of 2010, such a lofty achievement seemed improbable. Racing for Iraj Parvizi and trainer Brian Meehan, Dangerous Midge won 4 of 7 starts and $1,744,324 through the year, but had just one group stakes win to his credit before the 8-1 upset in the BC Turf.

For much of the spring and summer, he battled in England’s tough handicap division, facing big fields at top racecourses, but with mixed results. The April win at Doncaster was followed by two sixth-place finishes – as the 4-1 favorite in a field of 15 in the Jorvik Handicap at York on the undercard of the Yorkshire Cup in May and as an 11-1 shot in the 17-runner Duke of Edinburgh Handicap at Royal Ascot a month later.

Two weeks later, Dangerous Midge won the biggest race of his career up to that point, the $136,800 Old Newton Cup by eight lengths over 1 1/2 miles at Haydock Park, beating 13 rivals. A stab at a bigger prize, the $327,000 Ebor Handicap over 1 3/4 miles at York in August, failed after Dangerous Midge faded in the final three furlongs and finished eighth. It was his last loss of 2010.

In the Group 3 Arc Trial at Newbury on Sept. 17, Dangerous Midge tipped the form that would lead to a BC Turf win. He was near the pace throughout, took the lead with more than a furlong remaining, and pulled clear to win by four lengths.

For Meehan, it was enough to justify a trip to Kentucky for the Lion Heart colt, who was bred by Tony Holmes and Dr Walter Zent.
“He’s on an upward curve now,” Meehan said before the Breeders’ Cup. “We’ve have always been targeting a big prize like this for him.”

Much of the pre-race buildup focused on whether Workforce, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner, would start. When he was withdrawn on the morning of the race, Dangerous Midge’s chances were greatly enhanced, although Meehan had a few anxious moments before the start when Dangerous Midge became upset.

“I was a little upset when he was upset,” the trainer said.

Ridden by Frankie Dettori in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, Dangerous Midge was always near the front, staying within a length or two of Champ Pegasus. In early stretch, Dangerous Midge, racing wide, had the momentum. He took the lead in the final furlong from Champ Pegasus and won by 1 1/4 lengths.

The BC Turf was Dangerous Midge’s final start of 2010, and his greatest achievement. It was a far cry from the start of the campaign, on a Saturday evening at Doncaster in April.

PAST PERFORMANCES: Dangerous Midge's 2010 season PPs (PDF)

KEY RACE REPLAY: Breeders' Cup Turf at Churchill Downs >>