ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 5, 2014)–Bob Baffert’s Midnight Hawk, a recent winner of the Grade III Sham Stakes, and John Sadler’s Candy Boy, who was a sharp second in the Grade I CashCall Futurity, head a field of seven 3-year-olds set to go 1 1/16 miles in Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes, an important prep to the Grade I, $1 million Santa Anita Derby.
An impressive first-out maiden winner at Hollywood Park going 7 ½ furlongs Dec. 13, Midnight Hawk stretched out to win the one mile Sham by 1 ¾ lengths Jan. 11, thus stamping himself as a candidate for both the Santa Anita and Kentucky Derbies.
With 10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points available to the Lewis winner, Saturday’s race takes on added significance, as only Midnight Hawk has procured any of the points (10)–which are necessary to compete on the first Saturday in May.
A grey or roan colt by Midnight Lute, Midnight Hawk, off as the prohibitive 2-5 favorite, made the early lead in the Sham and either pressed or set fractions of 23.20, 46.20, and 1:10.40. He came home in 1:36.40, and earned a Beyer Speed figure of 95–identical to Candy Boy’s runner up performance in the CashCall Futurity.
Bred in Kentucky by Mike Pegram, Midnight Hawk has a high-profile ownership that consists of reigning Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, former Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Tice (who recently was named offensive line coach for the 2014 Atlanta Falcons), John Sikura’s Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings, Inc., Mike Kitchen and Pegram.
Although “Midnight” didn’t open up on his rivals as many expected in the Sham, Baffert opined, “He was waiting a bit on horses, but he came back, he didn’t look like he was very tired…”
Midnight Hawk has had three works since his Sham win, his most recent drill a five furlong spin in 1:00.60 on Feb. 2–18th best of 71 at the distance. He’ll again be handled by Mike Smith on Saturday.
Baffert will also saddle Tanma Corporation’s Chitu, who is undefeated in two starts going six furlongs. A Kentucky-bred colt by Henny Hughes, Chitu overcame an awkward start to win by a half length as the 3-5 favorite on Dec. 27 and figures to be winging early on Saturday with Martin Garcia.
Chitu zipped a bullet half mile for Baffert on Tuesday morning in 46.40–best of 34 at the distance.
In addition to his solid performance in the CashCall Futurity Dec. 14, Sadler’s Candy Boy has the advantage of having run five times, four of them in routes. Bred in Kentucky by Lee and Susan Searing and owned by their CRK Stable, the Candy Ride colt broke his maiden by 8 ¼ lengths going 1 1/16 miles on Nov. 22.
With Gary Stevens aboard for the first time in the CashCall Futurity, Candy Boy lagged far off the pace and finished second, beaten 5 ¾ lengths, by eventual Eclipse Award winning juvenile, Shared Belief and he’ll hope for a hot pace in the Lewis.
Beginning Jan. 11, Candy Boy has had four works in preparation for the Lewis, his most recent a six furlong drill at Santa Anita in 1:13.00, seventh-fastest of 18 at the distance.
Trainer Patrick Biancone will send out Diamond Bachelor, who is well-accomplished on turf, but as yet, unproven on the main track. A first out mile turf winner Aug. 8 at Del Mar, Diamond Bachelor came back to win the one mile Oak Tree Juvenile Turf Sept. 4, and was subsequently second, beaten three quarters of a length, in the mile turf Zuma Beach at Santa Anita Oct. 6.
Owned by Diamond 100 Racing Club, LLC, Mrs. Susan Magnier and Robert Trussel, Diamond Bachelor had shown ample speed in his three turf starts, but fell far back in his only dirt try, the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, on Nov. 2, finishing a well beaten ninth.
Trainer David Hofmans will saddle Home Run Kitten, who sat close and broke his maiden by a half length going 6 ½ furlongs down Santa Anita’s hillside turf course Jan. 11. Owned by Tarabilla Farms, Inc., the Kentucky-bred colt by Kitten’s Joy will try dirt and two turns in his third career start.
Owner/breeders Jerry and Ann Moss will be represented by Cool Samurai, who shipped west from Belmont Park to break his maiden in his second start, as he closed much ground going a flat mile to win by a half length in 1:36.40.
Trained by John Shirreffs, Cool Samurai, a Kentucky-bred gelding by First Samurai, was among the last-ever workers at Hollywood Park on Jan. 31, as he went seven furlongs over the Inglewood oval in 1:28.40.
Trainer Peter Miller’s El Nino Terrible was a gate to wire maiden winner going 1 1/16 miles on Jan. 17, and will ship in for the Lewis from his new base at San Luis Rey Downs. Owned by Dona Licha, the Malibu Moon colt will be making in his fourth career start.
In addition to the winner’s allotment of 10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points, the Lewis will provide four points to the second place finisher, two points for third, and one point to the fourth place runner.
The complete field for the Robert B. Lewis, to be run as the eighth on a nine-race card Saturday, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Candy Boy, Gary Stevens, 118; Diamond Bachelor, Julien Leparoux, 118; Midnight Hawk, Mike Smith, 120; Home Run Kitten, Joe Talamo, 118; Cool Samurai, Corey Nakatani, 118; El Nino Terrible, Edwin Maldonado, 118, and Chitu, Martin Garcia, 118.
First post time on Saturday is at 12:30 p.m. Admission gates open at 10:30 a.m.