As the Kentucky Derby trail starts to heat up, Bob Baffert's Midnight Hawk stepped to the forefront of the West Coast contenders with a 1 3/4-length victory in the $100,000 Sham S. (G3) Saturday at Santa Anita Park.
With the Sham field reduced to four following a pair of scratches, the one-mile contest turned into a match race shortly after the start when Midnight Hawk and Kristo hooked up on the front end. The duo took turns sharing the top sport through six furlongs in 1:10.50.
Midnight Hawk, who was outside his foe, pulled clear at the top of the stretch, going on to claim the victory despite drifting in to the rail late. The final time was 1:36.48.
“It’s great to see a colt this talented with room to grow. That’s what you want to have,” said winning rider Mike Smith. “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.”
He’s still a little green (referring to changing paths in the stretch), but I liked him a lot better without the blinkers,” added Baffert. “He was waiting a little bit on horses but he came back, he didn’t look like he was very tired. He wasn’t blowing very hard, so that’s a good sign.
“We’ll let him tell us when he’s ready to roll (as far as his next start). He’s a big, heavy horse, and he can handle a lot. He’s so heavy, I’d rather run him than work him. So far, so good, but we’ll just take baby steps as we go and just have fun with him.”
Midnight Hawk is owned in part by John Sikura's Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings, Inc., along with Mike Kitchen, Mike Pegram and former Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Tice and Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville.
Midnight Hawk was bred by Pegram out of his stakes-winning mare Miss Wineshine.
This was Baffert's third Sham winner, following Wild and Wise (2001) and Bob and John (2006), which is the most wins for a trainer in the race.