The Road to the Kentucky Derby leads to California Saturday where Midnight Hawk has been tabbed as the prohibitive 9-5 morning-line favorite in the 76th running of the $200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Park.
Trained by Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, Midnight Hawk was an honorable mention in my 2014 Kentucky Derby Outlook and, so far, the lightly raced son of Midnight Lute is off to a good start in his young career. He comes into this race undefeated in two starts, including a 1¾-length win in the Sham Stakes (G3).
Midnight Hawk’s sire, Midnight Lute, was an Eclipse champion male sprinter and two-time winner of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1). During his career, Midnight Lute compiled a 6-3-1 record with $2,690,600 in earnings.
Because of breathing problems, Midnight Lute was raced mostly in sprint races and it is unknown if he could have had any classic potential. However, his grandsire, Real Quiet, was an outstanding Classic Champion Thoroughbred who won the 1998 Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1) and lost by a nose to Victory Gallop in the Belmont Stakes (G1).
Wolf Power, the damsire of Midnight Hawk, was Horse of the Year in his native country of South Africa who was competitive from a mile to a mile and a quarter. During his career, Wolf Power compiled a 16-6-0 record in 22 starts and seven of those wins were in grade one races: Administrators Champ Juvenile, Hawaii Stakes (twice), Queen's Plate (twice) and the J And B Metropolitan Handicap (twice).
Midnight Hawk has the breeding to be competitive in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G2). Jockey Mike Smith rode Midnight Hawk in his previous two races and he retains the mount in the Lewis.
Another move forward would make Midnight Hawk competitive in this race
Chitu, the 7-2 morning line third choice, is also trained by Baffert and he also comes into the Lewis undefeated in two sprint races. Chitu is stepping up in class and he’s yet to run in a route race. However, he should be able to hand the stretch out in distance.
Henny Hughes, the sire of Chitu, raced mostly in sprints but was able to finish second in the 2005 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Stakes (G1). A.P. Indy, the damsire of Chitu, was competitive on the 1992 Kentucky Derby Trail, winning the 9-furlong Santa Anita Derby (G1), and the 12-furlong Belmont Stakes (G1).
Chitu has been firing bullet work outs and another move forward could make him competitive in this race.
An interesting lukewarm long shot I like in this race is Cool Samurai (6-1). He’s also moving up in class but his final winning time of 1:36.47 in his last race is in the ball park of what I like see in a young colt on the Derby Trail.
I look for Cool Samurai to be competitive in the Robert B. Lewis (G2).
Under the points system implemented by Churchill Downs to determine which horses will qualify to enter the Kentucky Derby starting gate, the winner of the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G2) will receive 10 points, the second-place finisher will receive four points, the third-place finisher will receive two points and the four-place finisher will receive one point. Here’s a look at the current top 20 Derby qualifiers:
2014 KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD
Individual Leaders ranking, total points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1. Havana, 14, Todd Pletcher, $660,000
2. Cairo Prince, 14, Kiaran McGlaughlin, $470,000
3. Honor Code, 14, Shug McGaughey, $340,000
4. Tapiture, 12, Steve Asmussen, $120,738
5. Bond Holder, 11, Doug O’Neill, $333,000
6. Rise Up, 10, Tom Amoss, $782,633
7. We Miss Artie, 10, Todd Pletcher, $242,000
8. Samraat, 10, Rick Violette, Jr., $150,000
9. Noble Moon, 10, Leah Gyarmati, $145,000
10. Ami’s Holiday, 10, Josie Carrroll, $136,145
11. Vicar’s in Trouble, 10, Mike Maker, $120,000
12. Cleburne, 10, Dale Romans, $102,044
13. Tanzanite Cat, 10, Code Autrey, $90,000
14. Midnight Hawk, 10, Bob Baffert, $60,000
15. Casigaupo, 5, Mario Morales, $271,050
16. Conquest Titan, 4, Mark Casse, $163,445
17. Smarty’s Echo, 4, Anne Smith, $82,000
18. Albano, 4, Larry Jones, $70,000
19. Classic Giacnroll, 5, Lisa Guerrero, $62,500
20. Uncle Sigh, 4, Gary Contessa, $50,000