Consummately consistent Creative Cause is the 6-5 morning line
favorite to lead the way to Kentucky among 10 entrants in Saturday’s
75th running of the mile-and-one-eighth, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby, a
Grade I event that has produced 15 Kentucky Derby champions.
Never more than one length behind at the wire in any of his
seven starts, Creative Cause’s four wins include a hard-fought,
three-quarter-length victory over the highly regarded and slightly
favored Bodemeister in Santa Anita’s Grade II San Felipe Stakes on March
Joel Rosario, headed for his second consecutive Santa Anita
riding title, will be aboard Heinz Steinmann’s gray colt for the fifth
straight time. Creative Cause drew the rail. His 27-year-old jockey and
trainer Mike Harrington, 71, will be seeking their first wins in Santa
Anita’s historic race for 3-year-olds.
Their obstacles include (a) the flashy I’ll Have Another, who
seemed to come from out of nowhere to post a stunning 43-1 upset in the
Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes, and who is the second choice at 5-2;
(b) Holy Candy, who took four races to break his maiden but who did so
magnificently; (c) the winless Brother Francis, whose four races
including two graded stakes have earned the maiden $135,720, and (d) the
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who has saddled six of the
past 16 winners of the Santa Anita Derby including 13-1 outsider
Midnight Interlude last year, entered three runners in Saturday’s field.
Baffert also raced a trio in 2003; finishing second, third and fifth.
His entrants on Saturday will be Liaison, 8-1, winner of last December’s
Grade I CashCall Futurity, but winless in two starts this year;
Paynter, 12-1, a maiden-breaker in his only start, and two-time winner
Blueskiesnrainbows, 20-1, who could have been claimed for $30,000 last
The 75th Santa Anita Derby will be contested as the sixth race
(2:46 p.m.) on an 11-race program that includes three other stakes
headed by the 30th running of the Grade II, $150,000 Potrero Grande
Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs that features 2011 Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion
First post is at 12 noon. Gates open at 10 a.m. A crowd of over
40,000 is expected. Fans will receive a free Derby Day t-shirt with each
paid admission. The Santa Anita Derby, along with the Wood Memorial
from Aqueduct, will be aired live during a 1 ½-hour NBC telecast that
begins at 1:30 p. m.
Creative Cause, who finished one length behind victorious Hansen
and current Kentucky Derby favorite Union Rags in the $2 million
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last November at Churchill Downs, has compiled a
4-1-2 record in his seven races for earnings of $719,000. His victory in
the San Felipe at 1 1/16 miles lifted Creative Cause back to the top of
his game after he had begun the season with a third-place finish
sprinting in the Grade II San Vicente Stakes.
“A lot of people thought the San Vicente was a bad race,”
Harrington said following the San Felipe. “I was ecstatic with it.” A
licensed veterinarian, he emphasized the importance of “progression.” “I
said all along it’s a progression,” Harrington explained, “and the only
thing I hope is that he doesn’t peak in the Santa Anita Derby instead
of the Kentucky Derby.” Creative Cause was an impressive 3 ¾-length
winner of Santa Anita’s Grade I Norfolk Stakes prior to his solid
performance in the Breeders’ Cup.
Interestingly, Harrington removes blinkers from his stable star,
who has run all seven of his previous races with the headgear in place.
Should Harrington make it to Churchill Downs on the first
Saturday in May, it would be the septuagenarian’s first Kentucky Derby.
When Steinmann, his primary client, asked Harrington last spring to
“find another Swiss Yodeler,” he wound up purchasing three horses at
sale. Among them was Creative Cause, a son of Giant’s Causeway who
brought $135,000 at the 2010 Keeneland September sale.
In deference to Steinmann’s directive, Harrington recalled, “I
told Mr. Steinmann, ‘This is impossible. I could buy horses for another
10 years and never get that lucky.’” Swiss Yodeler won five stakes for
the pair as a 2-year-old in 1996 including the Grade I Hollywood
Futurity. But after finishing ninth in the 1997 Santa Anita Derby,
Harrington’s first, Swiss Yodeler never made it to Kentucky.
Aside from Swiss Yodeler and his productive offspring, Harrington
might be best known for a five-day racing week at Hollywood Park in May
of 2006 when he won eight races from 10 starters. “Except for the week I
married my wife, that was pretty cool,” commented the laconic trainer.
After flying under the radar in three sprints as a 2-year-old
including a sixth-place finish in the Grade I Hopeful Stakes at
Saratoga, I’ll Have Another burst into the Derby picture when racing
around two turns for the first time in the Lewis Stakes on Feb. 4. “We
thought this horse was a two-turn horse,” owner J. Paul Reddam said
afterward in what seemed classic understatement.
Trainer Doug O’Neill, who ranks 17th in all-time wins at Santa
Anita but who has failed to hit the board with three Santa Anita Derby
starters, acknowledges that he was taken aback by I’ll Have Another’s
performance in the Lewis when traveling 1 1/16 miles in a blistering
“He’s always trained fantastic, but we never saw this coming, to
be honest with you,” O’Neill said afterward. “This is incredible.” Mario
Gutierrez, a standout jockey in Canada in recent years, was along for
the ride in the Lewis. Gutierrez, 25, will be seeking his initial Grade I
victory in his first Santa Anita Derby.
With $151,000 in graded stakes earnings, I’ll Have Another needs a
strong showing on Saturday to qualify for the May 5 Kentucky Derby. The
son of Flower Alley was purchased by Reddam for $35,000 last April.
Reddam subsequently named the chestnut colt in recognition of his
nightly response when asked by his wife, Zillah, “Do you want any more
Baffert is confident that Saturday’s mile-and-one-eighth distance
will flatter Liaison, whose $393,000 in graded earnings ensure a spot
in the Kentucky Derby lineup. The Indian Charlie offspring will have to
improve off his dull fourth-place run in the San Felipe. “He definitely
needs more ground,” said Baffert assistant Jimmy Barnes. “I think he
wants every bit of a mile and an eighth.” Should Liaison emerge
triumphant, Arnold Zetcher would become the first owner to win
back-to-back Santa Anita Derbies since C. V. Whitney won with Tompion in
1960 following Silver Spoon’s victory the year before. Rafael Bejarano
has the mount.
Holy Candy, listed at 8-1 on Jon White’s morning line, lacks any
graded stakes earnings, so a victory is vital if the son of Candy Ride
is to reach the Kentucky Derby. Following three second-place finishes,
he scored a dazzling maiden win by 3 ½ lengths on March 23 under
Rosario. Holy Candy ran one mile in 1:35.98 and galloped out very
strongly. “We’ve thought all along he was our best 3-year-old,” trainer
John Sadler said afterward, “and it was nice to see him finish and
gallop out the way he did.”
With Rosario committed to Creative Cause, Alonso Quinonez will be
aboard the gray colt on Saturday. Bred by Jenny Craig’s Craig Family
Trust, Holy Candy is owned by Craig Stables in partnership with Donkey
Island Racing, whose group includes New Orleans Saints All Pro
quarterback Drew Brees.
Midnight Transfer, third in the San Felipe after taking the
six-furlong San Pedro Stakes, is pegged at 10-1. “I’ll be a longshot in
the Santa Anita Derby, but it is what it is,” said Carla Gaines, who
trains Midnight Transfer for Warren Williamson. “Mr. Williamson (who is
83) is having some health issues. He wants to see his horse run here and
he wants to try the Derby, so the pressure is off. We’re going to do it
and see what happens.” Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith replaces Victor
Espinoza, who is sidelined with a broken hand.
The last maiden to win the Kentucky Derby was Broker’s Tip in
1933, and such an occurrence has yet to transpire in the Santa Anita
Derby. Brother Francis, therefore, faces an enormous challenge. But he
closed strongly to finish third behind Liaison and Rousing Sermon in the
CashCall Futurity at 1 1/16 miles, and the extra sixteenth may suit the
winless son of Lion Heart trained by James Cassidy for owner-breeder
Norman Cheng. “I’ve got a legitimate excuse for the horse every time he
runs,” Cassidy told the Daily Racing Form. “One thing I’ve got in my
favor – he will try harder than anyone else.” Garrett Gomez takes over
for Espinoza aboard Brother Francis, who is a 20-1 longshot.
The complete field for the Santa Anita Derby, with jockeys and
morning line odds in post position order (all starters carry 122
pounds): Creative Cause, Joel Rosario, 6-5; Liaison, Rafael Bejarano,
8-1; Holy Candy, Alonso Quinonez, 8-1; I’ll Have Another, Mario
Gutierrez, 5-2; Longview Drive, Russell Baze, 12-1; Paynter, Martin
Garcia, 12-1; Senor Rain, Eswan Flores, 15-1; Midnight Transfer, Mike
Smith, 10-1; Blueskiesnrainbows, Joseph Talamo, 20-1, and Brother
Francis, Garrett Gomez, 20-1.