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Midnight Hawk, above winning the Sham Stakes, is a top contender for the San Felipe Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita Park. (Benoit Photo)

Bob Baffert said Thursday on Twitter that highly regarded Bayern would miss a planned start in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita Park, but the Hall of Fame trainer still has a great chance to win the key Kentucky Derby prep race.

Baffert will send out Sham Stakes winner Midnight Hawk, a gray or roan colt by Midnight Lute who is owned by a partnership that includes Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville and NFL coach Mike Tice, for the $300,000 San Felipe.

After posting clear victories in his first two career starts, including the Sham, Midnight Hawk finished a disappointing third in the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis Stakes on Feb. 8. Baffert said the decision to try to reserve Midnight Hawk early in the Robert B. Lewis, rather than letting him run on or near the lead as he did in his first two races, hurt his chances in the race.

“Midnight Hawk, we sort of took him back a little bit and I don’t think he really liked it.  We’re going to probably let him break out of there and, you know, run,” Baffert said of the plan for the San Felipe.

The benefit to getting a horse to run off the pace is conserving energy for the late stages of the race. But if a horse fights the rider throughout and clearly wants to be right up front, the tactic can be counterproductive as it was with Midnight Hawk in the Robert B. Lewis.

“He’s relaxing a little bit,” Baffert said. “He’s really coming into this race really well, but, you know, it’s his chance. He’s going to have to show me something in this race, and I think last time he was a little bit—I think he had backed off a little bit off that last win that he’d had. I’d run him twice. He had two hard races and he took a little bit of a step back, but I think he’s moving forward.”

Baffert also trained Midnight Hawk’s sire, Midnight Lute, who was a two-time Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner and a champion sprinter. He sees some similarities between Midnight Hawk and his sire.

“Well, one thing I’ve noticed with the Midnight Lutes, he throws like he was — brilliant,” Baffert said. “[Midnight Hawk is] a brilliant horse himself, brilliant speed, big horse. … He’s really not quite as manageable in his races as we’d like him to be and we’ve been working him. … He fights a little bit too much, in which he’s been wasting a lot of his energy.”

With Bayern out of the mix, Midnight Hawk will face eight challengers in the San Felipe, including three-time stakes winner California Chrome.

CALIFORNIA CHROME

California Chrome Inside Benoit

Benoit Photo

A chestnut colt by Lucky Pulpit who is trained by Art Sherman, California Chrome won the King Glorious Stakes by 6 ¼ length in December at Hollywood Park and then opened his 3-year-old season with another dominant win in the California Cup Derby in January.

The San Felipe also drew Sham Stakes runner-up Kristo and San Vicente Stakes third-place finisher Rprettyboyfloyd. 

$300,000 San Felipe Stakes
Saturday, Santa Anita Park, Race 5, 2 p.m. ET
1 1/16 Miles, 3-year-olds

PP

Horse

Jockey

Weight

Trainer

1

Home Run Kitten

Alonso Quinonez

118

David Hofmans

2

Unstoppable Colby

Luis Saez

118

D. Wayne Lukas

3

Rprettyboyfloyd

Corey Nakatani

118

Denise Breuer

4

California Chrome

Victor Espinoza

118

Art Sherman

5

Sawyer's Hill

Martin Garcia

118

Kristin Mulhall

6

Bayern

Gary Stevens

118

Bob Baffert

7

Kristo

Joel Rosario

118

John Sadler

8

Schoolofhardrocks

Joe Talamo

118

David Hofmans

9

Midnight Hawk

Mike Smith

120

Bob Baffert

10

Recanted

Mario Gutierrez

118

Doug O'Neill

 

Image Description

Mike Curry

A native of Philadelphia who grew up in nearby Wilmington, Del., Curry was editor of Thoroughbred Times TODAY before joining the America's Best Racing team in May 2012. He credits his grandfather for the inspiration to repeatedly sneak off to Delaware Park as a 16-year-old and the 1989 rivalry between Sunday Silence and Easy Goer for his passion for horse racing. Curry graduated from the University of Delaware in 1997 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and a concentration in Journalism. He worked for the Wilmington News Journal and was Sports Editor of the Cecil Whig before moving to Lexington in 2005.

Image Description

Mike Curry

A native of Philadelphia who grew up in nearby Wilmington, Del., Curry was editor of Thoroughbred Times TODAY before joining the America's Best Racing team in May 2012. He credits his grandfather for the inspiration to repeatedly sneak off to Delaware Park as a 16-year-old and the 1989 rivalry between Sunday Silence and Easy Goer for his passion for horse racing. Curry graduated from the University of Delaware in 1997 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and a concentration in Journalism. He worked for the Wilmington News Journal and was Sports Editor of the Cecil Whig before moving to Lexington in 2005.

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