Unbeaten Midnight Hawk will put his perfect mark on the line Saturday when taking on six rivals in the Grade 2, $200,000 Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita Park. The 1 1/16-mile race is worth 10 points to the winner toward a berth in the Kentucky Derby starting gate, but before that it is a steppingstone to the Grade 1, $1 million Santa Anita Derby on April 5.
Trainer Bob Baffert will saddle Midnight Hawk for his third career start after sending the gray son of Midnight Lute out for easy wins in his prior pair. The sophomore romped by 6 1/5 lengths in his December 13 debut at Hollywood Park before trying a mile in the January 11 Sham and emerging a 1 3/4-length victor.
Since then, Midnight Hawk has recorded a trio of works over Santa Anita's main track, most recently clocking five furlongs in 1:00 3/5 on February 2. Mike Smith has been in the irons for each of the colt's prior runs and retains the mount on Saturday.
Candy Boy didn't get as good of a start to his career as Midnight Hawk. The John Sadler pupil dropped his initial three efforts at Del Mar and Santa Anita before breaking through with a 8 1/4-length score November 22 at Hollywood Park. The Candy Ride bay closed out his juvenile campaign in the CashCall Futurity on December 14, finishing a well-beaten second when 5 3/4 lengths behind eventual two-year-old champion Shared Belief.
Candy Boy won't face that talented colt this time around but will keep jockey Gary Stevens aboard in his second try for a graded victory.
Diamond Bachelor is the only other entrant in the field with prior stakes experience. The War Front colt captured the Oak Tree Juvenile Turf last September at Del Mar then placed second in the Zuma Beach on Santa Anita's green. The Patrick Biancone trainee tried dirt for the first time in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last out, but could only manage a ninth-placed finish on that occasion. Julien Leparoux has the call as Diamond Bachelor tries the main track again.
Chitu, Cool Samurai, El Nino Terrible and Home Run Kitten are all taking on stakes company for the first time. Chitu is undefeated in two starts following a 1 1/4-length maiden win at Del Mar and an optional claiming victory at Santa Anita, both in December. Cool Samurai broke his maiden for trainer John Shirreffs on December 27 in his second outing, while El Nino Terrible graduated a winner on January 17 in his second U.S. start for conditioner Peter Miller.
Home Run Kitten broke his maiden sprinting over Santa Anita's turf on January 11, but has posted a pair of decent works on the main track since then.