The top news on the “Road To The Kentucky Derby” this week was the scratch of Bayern who was scheduled to run Saturday as the 8-5 morning line favorite in the $300,000 San Felipe Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Park. Bob Baffert, the trainer of Bayern, said that he had a bruised foot and that his next race would probably be at Oaklawn or in the Santa Anita Derby (G1).
California Chrome, the morning line 3-1 second choice, could possibly become the favorite when the horses enter the starting gate. He comes into the San Felipe with a 4-1-0 record in eight starts, including victories in the Graduation Stakes, King Glorious Stakes and the California Cup Derby which is run at the same 8½-furlong distance of the San Felipe.
In the California Cup Derby, California Chrome came across the finish line in a time of 1:43.22 and that is very similar to times posted at this same distance by Kristo and Midnight Hawk who are now the morning line second co-choice at 4-1 odds.
Last October, Kristo posted a time of 1:43.30 in an 8½-furlong maiden race at Santa Anita Park. Midnight Hawk, who’s also trained by Baffert, finished third in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G2), just 1¾-lengths behind Candy Boy who won in a time of 1:41.83.
So, in finish times, there’s not a whole lot that separates the morning line top three. But, most of all, I’m interested to see how Midnight Hawk will perform in his fourth career start and third start as a three year old.
Midnight Hawk was an honorable mention in my 2014 Kentucky Derby Outlook and, so far, he’s been competitive in his young career. He comes into this race with a 2-0-1 record in three starts. But, if Midnight Hawk is going to be a factor on the trail, I’d like to see him step up with a convincing win in the San Felipe.
This is the time of year that I like to see big improvement in colts on the Derby Trail. And Midnight Hawk has the breeding to move forward.
Midnight Lute, the sire of Midnight Hawk, 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).
I look for the morning line top three to be competitive in San Felipe. Whether Midnight Hawk can win Saturday remains to be seen.
Two long shots I like in this race are Schoolofhardrocks (8-1) and Unstoppable Colby (20-1). But they will need to improve their game considerably to be competitive.
Schoolofhardrocks is stepping up in class and comes into this race off of a 1½-length win in his maiden debut at Del Mar last August. His finish time of 1:36.86 for the mile was pretty good it’s what I like to see in a young colt that may have potential.
And, despite the six-month layoff, a recent bullet work out on February 13 could have Schoolofhardrocks ready to run a good race.
Unstoppable Colby struggled as a two year old and comes into this race with a 1-1-0 record in five starts. However, he did break his maiden in his last race and could, perhaps, make another move forward off of that win.
If Schoolofhardrocks and Unstoppable Colby look good in the post parade, and you’re feeling lucky, they may be worthy of a small wager.
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 Tampa Bay Derby (G2) will receive 50 points, the second-place finisher will receive 20 points, the third-place finisher will receive 10 points and the fourth-place finisher will receive five points. 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. Samraat, 60, Rick Violette, Jr., $450,000
2. Intense Holiday, 53, Todd Pletcher, $327,500
3. Wildcat Red, 50, Jose Garrofalo, $410,000
4. Albano, 24, Larry Jones, $150,000
4. Uncle Sigh, 24, Gary Contessa, $150,000
6. Tapiture, 22, Steve Asmussen, $300,738
7. Vicar’s in Trouble, 20, Mike Maker, $160,000
8. General A Rod, 20, Mike Maker, $140,000
9. Havana, 14, Todd Pletcher, $660,000
10. Cairo Prince, 14, Kiaran McGlaughlin, $470,000
11. Honor Code, 14, Shug McGaughey, $340,000
12. Tamarando, 12, Jerry Hollendorfer, $490,000
13. Midnight Hawk, 12, Bob Baffert, $84,000
14. Bond Holder, 11, Doug O’Neill, $333,000
15. Rise Up, 10, Tom Amoss, $786,633
16. We Miss Artie, 10, Todd Pletcher, $242,000
17. Candy Boy, 10, John Sadler, $260,000
18. In Trouble, 10, Tony Dutrow, $170,000
19. Noble Moon, 10, Leah Gyarmati, $145,000
20. Ami’s Holiday, 10, Josie Carrroll, $136,145