ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 6, 2015)–Heavily favored Midnight Hawk seized command turning for home and rolled to an impressive 1 ½ length win in Friday’s $60,000 allowance feature at Santa Anita, getting one mile under Victor Espinoza in 1:36.77.
Trained by Bob Baffert, Midnight Hawk, who was a well beaten ninth by superstar Shared Belief in the Grade I, seven furlong Malibu Stakes on Dec. 26, rated kindly mid-pack around the Club House turn, eased to the lead a quarter mile from home and despite running a tad greenly, won in-hand for his first win since taking the Grade III Sham Stakes eight races back on Jan. 11, 2014.
“This was a big drop in class for him,” said Baffert. “It was good to stretch him out today. You could tell he was loaded at the quarter pole and he won under wraps…He was ducking in there again, but he’s perfect in the mornings. For some reason when he makes the lead in the afternoon, he does that.”
Off at 6-5 in a field of eight older horses, Midnight Hawk paid $4.40, $3.20 and $2.80. Owned by Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings, Inc. (John Sikura), Kitchen, Mike Pegram and partners, Midnight Hawk, a 4-year-old grey colt by Midnight Lute bred in Kentucky by Pegram, improved his record to 10-3-3-2. With the winner’s share of $36,000, he hiked his earnings to $490,700.
“The extra distance helped,” said Espinoza, who also rode Midnight Hawk in the Malibu. “Last time I rode him we went seven eighths and the pace was too fast for him…Bob and I both felt it would be better to go a little longer and he could follow a slower pace and keep up with them but also finish better.”
Second place finisher Cool Samurai flew from off the pace to just get up for the place under Tyler Baze. Off at 9-1, he finished a head in front of Airfoil and paid $7.60 and $5.20.
Ridden by Joe Talamo, Airfoil, who broke from the far outside, was five-wide turning for home, gained the place a sixteenth out, but couldn’t quite hold it late. Off at 10-1, he paid $4.80 to show.
First post time for a nine race card that includes the Grade II, $500,000 San Antonio Invitational, featuring Horse of the Year California Chrome and 2013 Eclipse Champion 2-year-old Shared Belief, is at 12:30 p.m. Admission gates open at 10:30 a.m.