Photo: Arlington Park
The Road to
the 2014 Kentucky Derby returns to Santa Anita on Saturday with the G3 Sham Stakes.
There are very little guarantees in this 6 horse field racing over a distance
of 1 mile but one thing is absolute; four horses will walk away with points for
the very first time, and the winner will still not be considered the top California contender.
unique about that is that this year’s Sham winner will hold a 10 point
advantage over the west coast favorite but it’s going to take more than a win
on Saturday to dethrone Shared Belief.
is one horse in this field that strikes me as a very curious contender. What’s
funny is the thing that has my attention the most is the 3-yr-old’s owners.
Introducing, Midnight Hawk by Midnite Lute and Miss Wineshine. Two of the
connections tied to the ownership of this entry are former
Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Tice and current Chicago Blackhawks coach
sorts of celebrities have dipped their toes in the thoroughbred business as
owners but lately, being a coach has been a successful recipe for delivering the
goods. If you ask any of them they’ll say it’s just a hobby and maybe it is. Even
further, maybe it was their hobby and their celebrity status that made it
rather easy to become an investor and gain a piece of the ownership pie. With a
pocketbook probably well equipped with the funds to secure a very fine young
talent it should be no surprise that the results that followed were pretty good
for Joe Torre and Rick Pitino those results include Grade 1 victories. What’s
also interesting about Game on Dude and Goldencents is that their favorite
track is where Midnight Hawk is racing on Saturday; Santa Anita Park.
on Dude failed to deliver in the Breeders’ Cup Classic here in 2012 and ’13, his
other four grade 1 starts at this track resulted in a win. As for Goldencents his best three lifetime
wins all occurred here; the Sham Stakes and Santa Anita Derby last spring as well
as the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile last November.
The other thing
that is interesting about Joe Torre and Rick Pitino is that these coaches know
how to win and their hall of fame careers are highlighted by the big ones (4
World Series and 2 NCAA National Championships).
Did I mention
championships? Well, then how does 2 Stanley Cups fit into that conversation. Joe Quenneville is on a roll with two
fantastic seasons that ended with the cup going back to Chicago in the last
four years. The most recent being just last season and Coach Pitino knows a
thing or two about keeping a hot streak going on the track after taking care of
business on the court. (2013 National Championship, 2013 Breeders’ Cup Win)
This may be
a seriously hypothetical proposal I’m offering here but how likely is it that
Coach Quenneville can relay his team’s success on the ice to his horse on the
track? Sure, I may be reaching a little bit on this one, but something tells me Midnight Hawk is bound to become a Grade 1 winner. I won’t go so far as to say
he’s going to contend for the Kentucky Derby just yet, but if he gets there I won’t
be surprised. So far he’s 1 for 1 with a nice start to his career coming
at Hollywood Park on December 13. In that 7 ½ Furlong race over the ATW, he
dominated from the quarter pole on before pulling away to win by more than 6
furlongs in 1:29.26.
Coach Tice his head coaching resume cannot be compared to Torre, Pitino or
Quenneville but he knows racing and he is definitely a horse guy. I’ve even
seen him before in the Paddock at Churchill Downs prior to one of the races on the
undercard of the Kentucky Derby. I even got the chance to shake hands with him
briefly. But let me tell you something about
shaking hands with a former NFL tight end. At 6’7” I’m not sure if he even saw
me and I’m amazed that he didn’t accidently break my hand when he shook it.
thing about Coach Tice is that he knows a thing or two about handicapping. Last
August he made some news when he hit the Pick 6 at Del Mar, winning $100,796.20.
Nice play coach, now let me know if you’re placing a little action on your youngster
Last but not
least, these sports figures, along with others, are probably good for racing. With
their names attached to the ownership of grade 1 winners it is doing nothing
but introducing their hobby to a few others along the way. I conclude it’s good
for the sport and an awfully good investment.
So let me
finish by asking your thoughts on our most recent coaches entering the ring of
thoroughbred ownership. Will Bob Baffert take his successful partnership with
coaches to the winners circle again this year? Will another legendary coach win
the 2014 Sham Stakes?