09/04/2008 12:00AM

Del Mar Futurity rivals figure to meet again


DEL MAR, Calif. - Midshipman and Coronet of a Baron, who finished a nose apart in a thrilling Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity on Wednesday's closing day, were already safely tucked into their new stalls at Santa Anita on Thursday morning and could face one another twice more in the next seven weeks there, in the Norfolk Stakes on Sept. 28 and then the Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Oct. 25.

Their future meetings will be as teammates, though. Darley Stables owns Coronet of a Baron, and last week Darley agreed to purchase nearly all the assets of Bob and Janice McNair's Stonerside Stable, which bred and owns Midshipman. Bob Baffert trains Midshipman, while Eoin Harty - a former Baffert assistant - trains Coronet of a Baron.

"I don't know how you could have scripted it any better," said John Adger, the longtime racing manager for the McNairs. "This is the way to go out in style - win a Grade 1 and beat a Darley horse.

"The deal should be closed in two to three weeks," Adger added. "Everything's been agreed to. It's just lawyers and paperwork."

One of the intriguing subplots to the sale will be whether Midshipman stays with Baffert, who did an outstanding job bringing Midshipman from an unstarted maiden to a Grade 1 winner in less than three weeks. Darley currently does not employ Baffert; its North American trainers include Harty and Kiaran McLaughlin. Sheikh Mohammed, who owns Darley, also has a history of taking his best 2-year-olds to Dubai to prepare for their 3-year-old season.

Baffert, who won a record eighth Futurity with Midshipman, said he was leaning toward the Grade 1, $250,000 Norfolk at the Oak Tree meeting, but wanted to see how Midshipman trained over the newly installed Pro-Ride synthetic surface at Santa Anita before making a firm commitment.

"I've got to see what that track is like up there," Baffert said Thursday morning. "And I'll have to talk to the new connections."

Midshipman ($14.60) came into the race off a fast debut win against maidens on Aug. 17. In the Futurity, he covered seven furlongs on Polytrack in 1:23.35 under Tyler Baze, whom Baffert praised for getting Midshipman into the clear early in the race.

"He rode an exceptional race," Baffert said.

Coronet of a Baron will "probably head for the Norfolk," Harty said Thursday. His narrow loss marked the third straight second-place finish for Harty in a Grade 1 race, with runner-up finishes by Well Armed in the Pacific Classic and Past the Point in the Woodward coming on the heels of Harty's narrow victory in the Travers with Colonel John.

"I came within a length and a quarter of three Grade 1's," Harty said. "But I could have gone down in the Travers and had nothing to show for it."

Earlier Wednesday, trainer Howard Zucker swept both divisions of the Daisycutter Handicap for female turf sprinters with the favorites Synnin and Grinnin ($6.40) and Queen of the Catsle ($4.20).

Also, Delta Storm ($88), the longest shot in the field, pulled off an upset in the $86,080 Pirate's Bounty Handicap for older sprinters.