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Kentucky Derby and Horse Racing at The Downey Profile®

Mixed Signals in Midnight Hawk's Trip to Windy City


By Dick Downey

On Saturday, the Chicago Blackhawks will face off against the St. Louis Blues in the second game of their NHL playoff series. Later in the afternoon, Midnight Hawk, a horse with Blackhawks ties, will run in the Illinois Derby as, in all likelihood, an odds-on favorite.

Trained by Bob Baffert, Midnight Hawk is owned in partnership by Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings, Inc, Mike Pegram, Blackhawks Head Coach Joel Quenneville, Blackhawks Assistant Coach Mike Kitchen, and Atlanta Falcons Offensive Line Coach and past Chicago Bears Offensive Coordinator Mike Tice. 

This year, Midnight Hawk, a heavy horse, has won the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita, run a close third to Candy Boy and Chitu in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes, run second in the San Felipe Stakes and again run second again behind Chitu in the Sunland Derby.  In the Illinois Derby he will be ridden for the first time by Martin Garcia and is 4-5 in the morning line.

Whether this entry affects Midnight Hawk's Kentucky Derby prospects is anyone's guess, but Baffert ran the colt in the Sunland Derby off 15 days rest.

On the other hand, there's this statement Tice made back on Feb. 21: "I think his numbers are good enough to go on in the prep races for the Kentucky Derby, but it'll be up to Bob if he runs in it. The Triple Crown isn't all there is in life. There are a lot of good races and a lot of good racetracks. If Midnight Hawk isn't in the Kentucky Derby, I'd love to come back to Chicago for the Illinois Derby and have him win it. To me, it's all about winning. I'd rather go somewhere and win a race than go to Churchill Downs and run 12th."

Todd Pletcher has had a lot of success in the Illinois Derby and this year sends out a pair in King Cyrus and supplemented entry Global Strike, who’s cross-entered in the Coolmore Lexington Stakes.

King Cyrus broke his maiden at first asking as a two-year-old last August at Saratoga.  He ran eighth with a wide trip in the Hopeful before running third against allowance-company at Keeneland last fall.  Given time off following that race, King Cyrus returned to run second in the Smooth Air at Calder and most recently seventh in the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds. 

Global Strike has faced Midnight Hawk already in the Sunland Derby, finishing a very distant sixth. He hit the board in his three prior starts, breaking his maiden the third time. Local jock Tim Thornton gets the call.

A winner of two straight coming into the Illinois Derby is Class Leader. Trained by Neil Howard, Class leader finished sixth in his debut at Churchill Downs last October. Stretching out for his second start, Class Leader broke his maiden around two turns at Fair Grounds and came back to win an optional claiming allowance race in his following start.     

Coming from the barn of trainer Robert Pincins is Emmett Park, who makes career start four.  A winner in his first start at Turfway last December, Emmett Park came right back to defeat allowance-optional claiming company in his first start this year.  He drew the far outside post in a crowded Risen Star, never making an impact.

Dynamic Impact, also cross-entered in the Coolmore Lexington, runs for trainer Mark Casse and takes on graded stakes company for the first time. Often a forward-running type, Dynamic Impact broke his maiden on March 1 at Oaklawn after stalking the pace.

Local hopes come from A Step Ahead and Irish You Well, both Illinois-breds.

A Step Ahead runs for trainer Chris Block.  A winner at Hawthorne, A Step Ahead is stakes placed and proven around two turns.

Still a maiden but not to be overlooked is Irish You Well. Trained by Wayne Catalano, Irish You Well has made six starts, posting a second and three third-place efforts.

The Illinois Derby will go as race nine of a 10-race card that will also include the Sixty Sails Handicap for females, and a pair of $100,000 state-bred stakes.

Additional content from Hawthorne release

Saturday, R9
Grade III Illinois Derby
1 1/8 Mile
Post Time 6:42 ET

Post   Horse  ML  Jockey Sx  Wt Trainer
1 Dynamic Impact (KY) 6-1 M. Mena C 122 M. Casse
2 A Step Ahead (IL) 20-1 C. Emigh C 122 C. Block
3 Midnight Hawk (KY) 4-5 M. Garcia C 122 B. Baffert
4 Irish You Well (KY) 20-1 C. Hill C 122 W. Catalano
5 King Cyrus (KY) 8-1 R. Napravnik C 122 T. Pletcher
6 Emmett Park (KY) 20-1 L. Wydick G 122 R. Pincins
7 Global Strike (KY) 15-1 T. Thornton C 122 T. Pletcher
8 Class Leader (KY) 5-1 J. Graham C 122 N. Howard

All will run with Lasix

Equipment Changes: 5 - King Cyrus - Blinkers On

Owners: 1 - John C. Oxley ; 2 - Virginia H. Tarra Trust (Virginia H. Tarra) ; 3 - Hill 'n' Dale Equine Holdings, Inc. (J. G. Sikura), Kitchen, Pegram, et al ; 4 - Donegal Racing (Jerry Crawford) ; 5 - WinStar Farm, LLC (Kenny Troutt) ; 6 - Gore Range Stable (Richard Emmett & Rudy F. Vogt) ; 7 - Stonestreet Stables LLC (Barbara Banke) ; 8 - Lane's End Racing (W. S. Farish)

Breeders: 1 - Blue Heaven Farm, LLC; 2 - Virginia H. Tarra Trust; 3 - Michael E. Pegram; 4 - Dell Hancock & Bernie Sams; 5 - Robert Muir, Des Scott & Sam Klein; 6 - Universal Thoroughbred Services, LLC.; 7 - Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings LLC; 8 - W. S. Farish



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