The excitement on the Road to the Kentucky Derby continued this past Saturday when jockey Mike Smith guided Midnight Hawk to victory in the Grade 3 $100,000 Sham Stakes (10-4-2-1 on the Road to the Kentucky Derby) run at 1 /16 miles at Santa Anita Park, improving the colt's already flawless career to a perfect 2 for 2. The Midnight Lute colt is trained by three time Derby winning trainer Bob Baffert who scored his third victory in the Sham Stakes where previously he found success with Wild and Wise (2001) and Bob and John (2006), respectively. Mike Pegram, who owned 1998 Derby winner Real Quiet also trained by Baffert, owns Midnight Hawk along with former Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Tice and Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Queeneville. The 1/16 mile event began when John Sadler-trained Kristo was hustled coming out of the starting gate and set the pace early on, but was challenged by Midnight Hawk as the field made their away around the first turn. These two kept each other company throughout much of the race where they set a moderate pace of :23.31 for the quarter and a half in :46:33. Midnight Hawk finally took full advantage of the field when he passed up Kristo approaching the far turn, Kristo tried to come back and challenge him toward the end, but could do no better than second as Midnight Hawk took the Grade 3 event by 1 3/4 lengths. Only two other horses, Ontology and I'll Wrap It Up, competed in the Sham Stakes but were never big factors running behind the top two the whole way around and ran third and fourth, respectively. Two other entries, Top Fortitude and Life Is a Joy, were both scratched from the race, reducing the field to only four horses.
Midnight Hawk's victory in the Sham Stakes put him on the leaderboard for the Road to the Kentucky Derby where he is in the tenth spot with 10 points and earnings of $87,000. The remaining three horses also earned points on the trail, four points being awarded to Kristo, two going to Ontology and one point going to I'll Wrap It Up. This was only the second race of the gray colt's career, his first being a 6 1/4 length romp in a maiden special weight at Betfair Hollywood Park. He was bred in the bluegrass of Kentucky by champion sprinter Midnight Lute out of the graded stakes placed mare Miss Wineshine (by Wolf Power).
Next week, the Road to the Kentucky Derby continues on Saturday, January 18th with the mile and 70 yards Lecomte Stakes at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, Louisiana, which last year produced eventual Preakness winner, Oxbow. The Smarty Jones Stakes, named after the 2004 Kentucky Derby winner, will be run on Monday, January 20th at Oaklawn Park at the distance of a mile. Last year, this race produced Eclipse Award hopeful Will Take Charge. Like the Sham Stakes, both of these races are awarded on the 10-4-2-1 scale.