Photo: Benoit Photo
Bob Baffert has won the Sham Stakes twice and the Kentucky Derby three times, so the Hall of Fame trainer is no stranger when it comes to getting 3-year-olds ready for a run at the Triple Crown classics.
He begins pursuit of his fourth win in the May 3 Run for Roses Saturday when he sends out promising maiden winner Midnight Hawk in the Grade III Sham Stakes at one mile. On paper, his major rival appears to be Kristo, himself a smashing maiden winner.
Midnight Hawk is a gray son of 2007 and 2008 Breeders’ Cup Sprint king Midnight Lute owned by John Sikura of Lexington, who races as Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings, Inc., and Mike Kitchen, Mike Pegram and former Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Tice and Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. The colt impressed Baffert with his 6 ¼-length win at 7 ½ furlongs on Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track Dec. 13.
Sadler was no less affected by Kristo’s front-running, 6 ¾-length sashay going a mile and a sixteenth at Santa Anita last Oct. 31. Kristo had his final major drill for the Sham on Sunday, working six furlongs in 1:12.80 under regular rider Rafael Bejarano.
“He worked well,” Sadler said. “His last race was good. I didn’t want to run him on synthetic, so I’ve saved him for the dirt.”
Baffert won the inaugural running of the Sham in 2001 with Wild and Wise for Golden Eagle Farm, and again in 2006 with Stonerside Stables Bob and John. His last Kentucky Derby win came in 2002 with War Emblem.
Kristo, a $500,000 son of Distorted Humor owned by brothers Pete and Kosta Hronis, has been favored at 3-10 in each of his three career starts,
The field for the Sham, race five of nine: Kristo, Rafael Bejarano, 2-1; I’ll Wrap It Up, Tyler Baze, 8-1; Life Is a Joy, Corey Nakatani, 12-1; Ontology, Mario Gutierrez, 8-1; Top Fortitude, Kayla Stra, 2-1; and Midnight Hawk, Mike Smith, 8-5.