Midnight Hawk on Derby Trail with Sham Victory

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Midnight Hawk Midnight Hawk

In a performance befitting the race’s namesake, the Bob Baffert-trained Midnight Hawk stretched out to two turns in style, winning Saturday’s Grade III, $100,000 Sham Stakes by 1 3/4 lengths under Mike Smith, thus stamping himself as a leading contender for the Grade I, $1 million Santa Anita Derby on April 5.

With two scratches out of the Sham, the field was reduced to four and 2-1 second choice Kristo, with Rafael Bejarano up, was sent to the lead going into the Club House, but was engaged immediately by Midnight Hawk, a 3-year-old Kentucky-bred colt by Midnight Lute who was making only his second career start.

“It kind of turned into a match race today,” said Smith. “Today, more so than winning, I wanted to find out if he could go long…He proved he could. He’s still a bit green down the lane. When the crowd screams…he thinks they’re yelling at him and he gets scared.

“It’s great to see a colt this talented with room to grow. That’s what you want to have…There’s room to grow here and that’s really something to look forward to. For such a big, heavy horse he just floats over the ground.”

With no show wagering, Midnight Hawk, the prohibitive 2-5 favorite, paid $2.80 and $2.10.
Bred by Mike Pegram and owned by reigning Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, former Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Tice (who just inked a deal with the Atlanta Falcons as their offensive line coach for the 2014 season), John Sikura’s Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings, Mike Kitchen and Pegram, Midnight Hawk picked up $60,000 for the win and most importantly, 10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points.

“He was waiting a bit on horses but he came back, he didn’t look like he was very tired,” said Baffert. “He wasn’t blowing very hard, so that’s a good sign. It’s a good step. But that’s the way Midnight Lute was. Midnight Hawk was ‘showing up’ in the mornings, but you don’t know until you do it (in the afternoon)…So far, so good, but we’ll just take baby steps as we go and just have fun with him.”

Trained by John Sadler, Kristo appeared well beaten at the rail turning for home but battled back gamely when shifted to the outside by Bejarno. He paid $2.20 to place.

“It’s pretty exciting,” said the burly 6’7” Tice, who played tight end for the Seattle Seahawks, Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings and dwarfed his fellow Winner’s Circle celebrants. “It’s nice to be part of a winner. Anytime you win it’s exciting—In anything, tiddlywinks, horse racing or football.”

“We think he can get better,” said Sadler of Kristo, who made his fourth start in the Sham and had not run since an impressive maiden win Oct. 31. “We think he wants to run farther. That’s not really the style we wanted to run today, but when it came up sort of like a match race, you’re drawn inside of the other guy, what are you going to do? We had to run head to head all the way around, but he ran well.”

Bejarano tipped his cap to the winner. “The winner was much too fast. He lost ground on both turns and still beat me.”

Kristo finished 3 1/4 lengths in front of 10-1 shot Ontology, ridden by Mario Gutierrez, and it was another 9 1/2 lengths back to 13-1 shot I’ll Wrap It Up and Tyler Baze.

Fractions on the race were 23.31, 46.33, 1:10.50 and 1:23.06.

The next major steppingstone to the Santa Anita Derby is the Grade II, 1 1/16 miles Robert B. Lewis Stakes Feb. 8.

Equibase chart

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  • Andrew A.

    Throw em all out. No shot for anyone in this ultra weak field.

    • Susan Crane-Sundell

      Oh come on, don’t be so negative, a horse won fair and square, It’s a shame two scratched but this is the way it went today. Onward with the three-year old season!

    • Ron S

      I think Hawk has big potential. He deserves a chance to prove it. He has done everything asked of him so far. Where was shared belief today? I bet Coach Q would disagree with your assessment of his horse. If he turns out to be special coach Q have him visit Arlington this summer. Draw some much needed fans from hockey to horse racing.

    • Glimmerglass

      I have to agree – small field (typical Cali) and modest time at just 1-mile without exactly a tremendous kick suggesting 1 1/4 is optimal. Outside of running 2-turns, if Midnight Hawk gained anything from this I’d be surprised. When he encounters a field even 8 runners pressing the pace he’ll be melting like ice.

      Folks can try to make this into something, but I didn’t see anything remarkable from any of the horses that ALL received Derby points.

      • Figless

        Agree, as usual these articles go WAY over the top praising these winners “In a performance befitting the race’s namesake”. Really? He beat three horses of unknown quality in January, and was giving up ground at the end.
        Nice performance by a nice horse, room for improvement, certainly, but way too early for these comparisons.

    • Dan Jividen

      I don’t know. Those splits are pretty impressive for a three year old in January. And Baffert will know how to bring him along. I wouldn’t cross him off my list this early,

  • Tinky

    How nice that he has a cobalt (aka iron grey) colored coat…

    • biggar

      You don’t ever give it a rest.

    • LongTimeEconomist

      Cobalt is blue, Tink, not grey.

      • Tinky

        hmmm…from Wikipedia:

        “Cobalt is a chemical element with symbol Co and atomic number 27. Like nickel, cobalt in the Earth’s crust is found only in chemically combined form, save for small deposits found in alloys of natural meteoric iron. The free element, produced by reductive smelting, is a hard, lustrous, silver-gray metal.”

        • LongTimeEconomist

          Read the next sentence on Wikipedia, Tink.

          • Tinky

            Yeah, I get that it is used to “produce blue pigments”, but that is not its color.

            From the same page there is a photo of it in its natural state, with the following heading:

            “Appearance – hard lustrous gray metal”

            and from Mirriam-Webster:

            “a tough lustrous silver-white magnetic metallic element that is related to and occurs with iron and nickel and is used especially in alloys

            and WebElements:

            “Cobalt is a brittle, hard, silver-grey transition metal with magnetic properties similar to those of iron…”

            If you require further convincing, try searching for “cobalt element” and click “images”.

          • Mimi Hunter

            OK. We now know that it is a silver-gray metal. Can anyone tell me what it is supposed to do. Everybody says it’s performance enhancing but nobody says what or how or anything. Please

          • Tinky

            Mimi –

            I answered in greater depth last night, but it has yet to be approved and posted by the moderators as it includes a link to a scientific journal.

            The short version is that it is similar to EPO, so it stimulates red blood cell production which in turn gives the athlete (or horse) greater oxygen carrying ability. A huge advantage if administered properly.

          • Mimi Hunter

            Tinky – Thank you. I have both your answers here – I’ll try the link in a little bit. I’ll bet there are some who will mix it w/ Lasix – the blood would turn into library paste. I hope the Thoroughbred tracks follow Meadowlands’ lead.

  • Andrew A.

    He can’t run straight in the stretch. Unless they correct that, and they haven’t so far, then it will prevent him from winning any serious 3yo race this year.

    • Knowitall

      Is he really acting any more green than any other 3 year old with two starts? I always see horses like this that win on talent as the ones with upside as they mature and become more tractable. He doesn’t act like a total head case and Lute has a kind temperament.

      • Andrew A.

        Yes. They keep throwing around the word “green” and maybe that’s true to a certain extent but he doesn’t break sharp for a horse they say “needs the lead” and he can’t run straight in the stretch. Wait till he gets in a full field.

        • Knowitall

          As long as he stays in Cali, that won’t be a worry;-) But Andrew, really? The horse has run twice. Not sure he “needs the lead” or that was just the right tactic in that four horse field.
          Seriously, agree he will learn in a full field and Baffert has trained a horse to be ready for the Derby once or twice before.

          • Andrew A.

            They were quoted as saying he wants to be on the lead.

          • Knowitall

            He stalked, and then rated in a duel, even conceded the lead back briefly, he was never rank. He also didn’t break slow in this one. The one horse got a flyer to the other three. He spooked in second start from crowd noise in stretch. Not a big deal to me. But maybe Baffert takes your advice and sends him to a track with a crowd and a big field in next start, i.e. Oaklawn.

  • Al

    A field of 4? I think last week they had a 3 horse race on the dirt. They seem to get 10 to 14 horses on the grass at Santa Anita. I am a casual fan, is there any reason for the small fields?

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