The Jan. 11 Sham Stakes (gr. III), the first graded stakes along the 2014 Triple Crown trail, drew only four starters. Nonetheless, the winner, Midnight Hawk, looks to have the potential to be a pretty nice colt. Notching his second win in as many starts, the Mike Pegram homebred scored a solid victory under a hand ride despite going wide on the last turn and racing a bit greenly in the stretch.
Midnight Hawk is the third generation of his male line raced either solely or in partnership by Mike Pegram, who also campaigned the colt's sire, 2007 champion sprinter Midnight Lute , and his grandsire, 1998 champion 3-year-old male Real Quiet. (Pegram races Midnight Hawk in partnership with Hill 'n' Dale Equine Holdings, Mike Tice, Joel Quenneville, and Mike Kitchen.) The colt is the ninth stakes winner and fifth graded stakes winner sired by Midnight Lute, who had a hot month in December as the sire of Malibu Stakes (gr. I) winner Shakin It Up and Capeonato Juvenil (Mex-I) winner Pachangera.
A close second to Majestic Warrior on the 2013 second-crop sires list, Midnight Lute had major winners at distances ranging from seven to 10 furlongs, including Queen's Plate winner Midnight Aria; he is also the sire of grade I-placed Irish Lute (third in the six-furlong Prioress Stakes) and Mylute (third in the Preakness Stakes). Midnight Lute is slated to stand at Hill 'n' Dale Farms for $25,000 in 2014.
While a wickedly fast horse over sprint distances, Midnight Lute was probably not inherently limited to short distances as he was compromised by a breathing problem. On paper, he had every right to stay further than a mile—perhaps much further. His sire, Real Quiet, in fact, just missed capturing the 1998 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) by a nose after winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. His dam, Candytuft, never raced but is by champion juvenile male Dehere (Deputy Minister—Sister Dot, by Secretariat), whose breeding and running style both suggested that he might like a distance of ground, a point Dehere never really got to prove as he was derailed by injury early in his sophomore season.
Midnight Lute's potential for stamina is supplemented by Candytuft's female line, which came to the U.S. via the 1959 Oaks d'Italia winner Feria (by the Italian champion Toulouse Lautrec). She produced four stakes winners, the best of which was Gyr. Popularly known as "the magnificent Gyr," the son of Sea-Bird ran second to Nijinsky II in the 1970 Epsom Derby and won the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud against his elders. Berkut, a 1971 full sister to Gyr, won the 1974 Premio Baggio in Italy and produced three stakes winners from six foals. The best of them, Alydar's Best (by Alydar), won the 1984 Grand Criterium (Fr-I); the following year, she won the Eyrefield Pretty Polly Stakes (Ire-II) and ran second in the Gilltown Stud Irish Oaks (Ire-I). Candytuft's dam, Bolt From the Blue (by Olden Times' grade II-winning son Blue Times), was not quite so good as her half sister but was nonetheless a classy mare on her own account, finishing third in the 1983 E. P. Taylor Stakes (gr. IIT) and winning the 1984 La Prevoyante Handicap (gr. IIIT).
Midnight Hawk's immediate female ancestry suggests more speed than stamina. His dam, Miss Wineshine, was the Texas champion juvenile filly of 1999 after winning the listed Silver Spur Stakes at Lone Star Park and placing in three graded races including the Spinaway Stakes (gr. I); she was never tested over more than seven furlongs during her brief career, but her full brother, Delta Wolf, was a confirmed and consistent sprinter on the Midwestern circuit in the 1990s. She is by 1984 South African Horse of the Year Wolf Power (Flirting Around—Pandora, by Casabianca), a top-class miler and a useful source of speed as a sire in the United States, out of the Cormorant mare Miss Mississippi, who scored her lone victory at a flat mile.
Cormorant, a good regional sire in New York, was himself a speedy miler, taking after his broodmare sire, Tudor Minstrel. Nonetheless, the son of His Majesty could stretch his speed well enough to capture the 1977 Jersey Derby (gr. I) over nine furlongs, and he sired 1994 Kentucky Derby winner Go for Gin. On paper, Miss Mississippi had the potential for far more stamina than she displayed, as her dam, Wonderful Flight, was by the good stayer Sunrise Flight out of the Prince John mare Be Grateful.
In summation, the pedigree of Midnight Hawk, on the surface a mating between two sprinters, actually shows a nice balance between speed and stamina elements and makes him an interesting prospect for this year's Triple Crown series.