Another horse has been scratched off the Kentucky Derby contendership list–trainer Bob Baffert announced on Monday that Midnight Hawk won’t be entered in the May 4th race at Churchill Downs. Midnight Hawk–owned by Atlanta Falcons offensive line coach Mike Tice and Chicago Black–was the 2-5 favorite in Saturday’s Illinois Derby but was upset by 9-1 underdog Dynamic Impact. Midnight Hawk finished second in the race and based on his performance Baffert has opted against entering him in the Kentucky Derby though he hasn’t given an indication as to why. Dynamic Impact ran down Midnight Hawk in a photo finish but all Baffert has said is that he might reconsider if there are additional defections from the field.
Midnight Hawk’s removal from the list of potential Derby starters does open a window of possibility for Commanding Curve, who finished third in the Louisiana Derby. Commanding Curve’s trainer, Dallas Stewart, was in a similar situation last year when Golden Soul finished fourth in the Louisiana Derby but eventually made the Kentucky Derby field and managed to finish second behind race winner Orb. Stewart is in better shape this year–Golden Soul was ranked #28 on the Derby qualification list a month out while Commanding Curve is now just ‘on the bubble at #21–but he knows full well that things are out of his hands:
“Nothing you can do, just bite your nails and wait, I guess. You can’t wish bad luck on anybody. You just have to see what happens. We got about 10 days.”
As for Baffert, he could still have as many as four horses entered in the Kentucky Derby even with Midnight Hawk out of the running. Hopportunity is his best Derby prospect and is already a certainty to go. Hopportunity won the Rebel Stakes earlier this year and finished second in the Santa Anita Derby behind current Kentucky Derby favorite California Chrome. Hopportunity is currently a 14/1 choice in the Wynn Las Vegas Kentucky Derby futures odds. Baffert’s other three prospects– Danza, Intense Holiday, and We Miss Artie–are all high enough on the qualification list to enter the race but the trainer wants to evaluate their performance in a final workout before making a decision.