I am not quite ready to select a winner for the 2012 Kentucky Derby, but I am certain what will be the most popular line of the day, “I’ll Have Another.” Sent off as the 4-1 second choice, I’ll Have Another thrilled drinkers everywhere as he held off heavily favored Creative Cause to win a heart-pounding edition of the Santa Anita Derby by a nose in the West Coast’s most important prep for the Run for the Roses.
Owned by Paul Reddam, and trained by Doug O’Neill, I’ll Have Another backed up his surprising 43-1 win in February’s Robert Lewis today with a determined win at Santa Anita. Content to stalk the moderate pace set by longshot under rider Mario Gutierrez, the son of Flower Alley raced off the rail while in no hurry to go after the 42-1 shot. As the field approached the home stretch, I’ll Have Another came wide while Creative Cause picked them up on the inside. Joining the leader at the eighth pole, the two favorites braced for a stirring stretch battle. Edging by a game Blueskiesnrainbows, I’ll Have Another hit the front on the outside, but Creative Cause was strong on his inside. The two raced to the wire together, with I’ll Have Another never relinquishing his narrow lead. Blueskiesnrainbows held on for a clear third and only a half-length behind Creative Cause.
I’ll Have Another’s victory marked a series of firsts for his happy connections. Paul Reddam and Doug O’Neill each won their first career Santa Anita Derby, while Gutierrez won it in his very first attempt in the race.
“This is so unbelievable. He is such a good horse and he gave me a big kick at the end. There wasn’t any doubt in my mind that my horse would give me everything in the stretch leading up to the wire, said the winning rider.
Winning time for the 1 1/8 miles over the fast track was a sharp 1:47.88, making it the fastest Santa Anita Derby in the past decade. It was the third win five lifetime starts for I’ll Have Another, who will now be sent to the Derby as a very fresh horse, as his win last time in the Lewis came after a five-month layoff. Bred to run long, he now has proven the last was no fluke, and must be considered on the short list of Kentucky Derby favorites.
As for the vanquished favorite, Creative Cause ran another strong race, but once again ran a little erratic early in the lane. He did finish up full of run again though, and even with the loss, should be well backed in Louisville.
With two very good horses running an exciting race today in the Santa Anita Derby, I could not help but to think back to one of my favorite editions back in 1997. That time it was Free House earning a narrow victory over Silver Charm, and we all know how they did in the Triple Crown.