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2014 Sham Stakes: Top Coaches Own Top Talent

Stanley Cup-winning Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville raises The Cup overhead at Arlington Park.
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.

 

What’s 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

 

But there 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 Joel Quenneville.

 

Sure all 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 right?

 

Yeah, but 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.

 

Although Game 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.

 

As for 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.

 

Another 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 this weekend.

 

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?

 

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Older Comments about 2014 Sham Stakes: Top Coaches Own Top Talent...

if you like hockey..."Went to a fight last night and what do you know, a hockey game broke out!"
i like how bob is allowing the horse to dictate where midnight hawk will be his next race. I also like the fact THAT MIKE SMITH IS HIS RIDER .
Didn't mention it but in case anyone is interested in a different kind of daily double, the puck drops with Blackhawks @ Canadians about 90 minutes after the Sham
Many sports figures from other sports have gotten into horse racing which helps enormously. Many team owners like Steinbrenner etc. got into not only TB ownership, but also factor in track ownership in harness and in TB racing as well.
Love the idea of bringing in coaches/players from other sports into horse racing. They already have the competitive nature so why not? Baffert has the right kind of personality to attract these new owners as well. It's very good for horse racing and I think Midnight Hawk's chances are very good here.
Great write-up Bryan, it figures that Mike Pegram wouldn’t cut his Big Timer dinner buddies in on a plug!
Not only is he a mainstay in the NHL playoffs, I've seen Coach Q at several racetracks ... looks like he may have a good one in the aptly named Midnight Hawk. I like his chances in the Sham.

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