Two of the stars in the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, the unbeaten 3-year-old Midnight Hawk and $5.7-million career earner Game On Dude, figure to be heavily favored Saturday in important stakes races at Santa Anita.
The Grade II, $250,000 Robert B. Lewis stakes at 11/16 miles is another test for West Coast horses seeking a spot in the Kentucky Derby. Midnight Hawk is two for two in his career and will be ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith.
Missing from the race is unbeaten Shared Belief, considered the top 3-year-old in the West. Shared Belief has been resting after a quarter crack. Candy Boy, the second-place finisher to Shared Belief in the CashCall Futurity, will make his 3-year-old debut against Midnight Hawk in a field of seven.
Game On Dude will be seeking his third victory in the Grade II, $300,000 San Antonio Stakes, a 11/8-mile prep race for the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap on March 8. Game On Dude begins his 7-year-old season trying to make up for a disappointing ninth-place finish in last year's Breeders' Cup Classic after being the favorite; Smith also has the mount.
"He seems to be training really well," Smith said of Game On Dude. "The older he gets, the better, it seems. Throw out his Breeders' Cup effort. He had a hell of a year."
The third stakes on the nine-race card is Grade II, $200,000 San Marcos Stakes at 11/4 miles on the turf. The 8-year-old Jeranimo, coming off a victory in the San Gabriel Stakes last month, tops a field of 13.