Creative Cause’s trainer, Mike Harrington - age 71, and owner, Heinz Steinmann - age 80, seek to turn back the clock this Cinco de Mayo, as did Sea Hero’s Derby winning connections back in 1993 (see below). Harrington is a fourth generation horseman, having spent over 50 years near a racetrack as either a trainer or veterinarian for both quarter and thoroughbred horse breeds. Herren Steinmann has been his major owner/supporter now for two decades, sending him a few young horses each year. The pair previously enjoyed Grade I success with California star Swiss Yodeler in the 1990’s, producing enough earnings to keep him involved in the game at a high level. Creative Cause was originally a $135,000 Keenland yearling purchase, followed by a private sale to “Heinz-Stein” (nickname opportunities abound!). You’ve got to love the quiet confidence of Harrington…"He falls under the radar, which I like. I don't want him to be the favorite, I don't want everybody talking about him," Harrington said. "Everybody should be talking about Bodemeister, although my horse outrun him. Everybody should be talking about I'll Have Another, although I outrun him also. Those three horses have traded punches, so who knows?" Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Baffert! Oh yeah, now you are the kinder, gentler Baffert post heart attack – I forgot.
(photo courtesy of StamfordAdvocate.com)
Heinz Steinmann is literally living the American dream, having immigrated from Switzerland with his parents and eight siblings as a teen to develop a ski village north of Los Angeles. After leading UCLA’s ski team to two championships (how weird does that sound, you mean someone other than John Wooden brought glory to the Bruins?) “Heinz 57” eventually took over the family ski resort, raising his large family of 11 children (eldest son is deceased) in the northern Los Angeles mountains before selling the property to finance his life-long dream of owning horses. His entry to thoroughbreds was nurtured by his wife Lora, who encouraged “Stein-Mart” to take the plunge after a trip to Santa Anita, where they became hooked (something that “Luck” was supposed to encourage, but maybe not after HBO’s run of “bad” luck).
The Steinmann clan will be hard to miss come Derby Day, as the five living sons and five sons-in-law will all be part of the famed walkover in leading the gray son of Giant’s Causeway from the distant Churchill Downs backstretch, while the lady Steinmanns await in the paddock area with hats on head and juleps in hand on que for “My Old Kentucky Home.” Total ticket requests exceeded 50 for this tight-knit California group, whose nuclear family boasts more people than entire syndicates such as Team Valor, who visited the winner’s circle just last year.
Knowing how families like this operate (I’m the youngest of 10 children), my guess is that the family will be rehearsing the lyrics on the bus ride over to the track with spirits flowing to clear the vocal chords! I can only imagine one more accomplishment that would put a cap on a life so very well lived, and that is the title “Winner of the 138th Kentucky Derby.” Even if he weren’t one of my top picks, I would certainly love to see another gray blob hit the wire first come Saturday if it means generations of great memories for Mr. and Mrs. Steinmann and their family.
Now more on the ’93 team that achieved Derby glory with Sea Hero. Known as the “Gentleman Trainer of Morgan Street,” MacKenzie “Mack” Miller was 72 years young when he sent post-ward Paul Mellon’s (age 85) homebred Sea Hero, winner of the 1993 Kentucky Derby piloted by Jerry Bailey. To complete the octogenarian theme, when Strike The Gold passed away last year, Sea Hero became the eldest living Kentucky Derby winner still alive today.
Paul Mellon was born June 11, 1907 of the Mellon banking dynasty of Pennsylvania. Ironically, Sea Hero would barely crack the top five of Mr. Mellon’s greatest silk-bearers, with English champions Mill Reef and Gold and Ivory and American Champions Arts and Letters and Fort Marcy campaigned prior to Sea Hero’s conquest in America’s Greatest Race. But along with Unbridled’s victory in 1990 with a stylish Frances Genter being embraced by trainer Carl Nafzger, that was a Derby that has always stuck with me based on the longevity and determination of these two men.
Best of luck on Derby day to you all and for whoever wins, I look forward to the new memories for years to come.
(some content provided by utsandiego.com, Ed Zieralski)