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CREATIVE CAUSE 6-5 FAVORITE IN FIELD OF TEN FOR SATURDAY’S 75TH SANTA ANITA DERBY; I’LL HAVE ANOTHER SECOND CHOICE AT 5-2; BAFFERT ENTERS TRIO HEADED BY 8-1 LIAISON
ARCADIA, Calif. (April 4, 2012) – 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 10.
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 “Baffert Factor.”
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 December.
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 Amazombie.
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 1:40.84.
“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 cookies?”
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.
The Potrero Grande was the vehicle that launched Amazombie on his ascent to Breeders’ Cup stardom and a subsequent Eclipse Award last year, as it provided the California-bred son of Northern Afleet with his first graded stakes victory for trainer Bill Spawr, who co-owns the gelding with Thomas Sanford.
A repeat in the six-and-one-half furlong event will get Amazombie back on track after finishing third behind The Factor in the Grade II San Carlos Stakes on Feb. 25, his return to racing after scoring at 7-1 in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5.
He will face no easy task in his second start of 2012 in a field of nine that includes trainer Jeff Bonde’s Sway Away, who defeated Amazombie by 1 ¾ lengths when second in the San Carlos, and trainer Mike Mitchell’s Camp Victory, who has twice beaten Amazombie. The Potrero Grande will be contested as the day’s ninth race.
Mike Smith, who regularly rides Amazombie, welcomes a field larger than the five that took part in the San Carlos. “It would have been nicer if there were more horses and a little more pace,” Smith commented after the San Carlos. “The first race back going seven-eighths is always really tough, especially with those caliber or horses.
”I’m happy with the way he ran,” the Hall of Fame jockey continued. “He only got beat a couple of lengths for all of it against some top notch horses. I was happy with his race, and I know he has a whole lot of room to improve.”
Amazombie comes into Saturday’s Grade II sprint with earnings of $1,549,708 from a 10-4-6 record in 24 lifetime starts. The only two-time winner of the Potrero Grande in 29 runnings was Bruce Headley’s Kona Gold, victorious in 2000 as well as the following year.
Sway Away, a 4-year-old son of Afleet Alex, returned from eight months on the sidelines to run second in the San Carlos. With Bejarano back aboard, he will be seeking his first stakes victory on Saturday even though he has been the runner-up in three Grade II stakes races. He has compiled a 2-3-0 record in eight starts while earning $197,800 for a partnership headed by Batman Stable.
Camp Victory has not been out since finishing seventh in the Grade II Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5. The Virginia-bred son of Forest Camp was victorious over Amazombie in Hollywood Park’s Grade III Los Angeles Handicap last May after the latter was disqualified to second for a bumping incident at the eighth pole. Camp Victory also got the better of the eventual Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion one race later when second to Amazombie’s third behind Smiling Tiger in the Grade I Triple Bend Handicap at Hollywood Park.
Trained by Mitchell for the partnership of Roger Featherston, Gordon Jacobsen and Tom Miller, the 5-year-old gelding was claimed for $40,000 in February of last year. He shows career earnings of $337,986 from a 7-3-0 record in 20 races. Joe Talamo will ride.
The complete field for the Potrero Grande Stakes, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Sway Away, Bejarano, 118; Amazombie, Smith, 123; Mensa Heat, Gomez, 118; Smart Spending, Rosario, 118; Roman Threat, Garcia, 118; Camp Victory, Talamo, 118; Courtside, Antonio Castanon, 118; Thunder of Zion, Alex Bisono, 118, and Thinking of Girls, Daniel Vergara, 118.
In the afternoon’s third graded stakes race, Killer Graces heads a lineup of seven 3-year-old fillies going 1 1/8 miles on turf in the 32nd running of the Grade II, $150,000 Providencia Stakes.
The Providencia will mark the first start on turf for the daughter of Congaree who won the Grade I Hollywood Starlet last December at Hollywood Park and who ran second to Willa B Awesome in the Grade III Santa Ysabel Stakes at Santa Anita on Jan. 28.
Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer for a partnership, Killer Graces will be ridden for the first time by Bejarano while carrying high weight of 123 pounds. She is the most accomplished runner in the field with earnings of $414,830 from a 3-4-0 record in 10 career starts. The Providencia is carded as the eighth race.
The complete field for the Providencia Stakes, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Lady of Shamrock, Smith, 118; Island Paradise, David Flores, 118; Killer Graces, Bejarano, 123; Byrama, Gomez, 118; Charm the Maker, Rosario, 118; Ms Pianist, Martin Pedroza, 118, and Indigo River, Talamo, 118.
Following three successive stakes victories in England, Irish-bred Belle Royale will make her U.S. debut for trainer Simon Callaghan in the $75,000 American Beauty Stakes for older fillies and mares at one mile on turf. Rosario rides the 4-year-old Val Royal filly, who earned $161,611 in Great Britain from an 8-7-0 record in 24 starts. She carries high weight of 123 pounds in the field of nine. The American Beauty will go as the 10th race.
The complete field for the American Beauty Stakes, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Rosehill Dew, Gomez, 116; Calle Vista, Garcia, 116; A Jealous Woman, Brice Blanc, 116; Belle Royale, Rosario, 123; Imperialistic Diva, Eswan Flores, 116; Sweetly Peppered, Bejarano, 120; Briecat, Talamo, 118; Gem of Soul, Edwin Maldonado, 116, and Go Forth North, David Flores, 116.