Creative Cause has been the top Kentucky Derby prospect on the West Coast ever since convincingly winning the Gr. I Norfolk last year.
He will try to maintain that status on Saturday’s 75th edition of the $750,000 Gr. I Santa Anita Derby, which drew one of the deepest field for a Derby prep this year.
The son of Giant's Causeway, out of the Stakes-winning mare Dream of Summer, validated his status in the Breeder's Cup Juvenile when he finished a game third to Hansen and Union Rags.
He did not run for the rest of 2011, and returned to the track this year at the Gr II San Vicente Stakes where he finished third to Drill and American Act.
He bounced back and won the Gr II San Felipe Stakes. This under an energetic ride by jockey Joel Rosario, defeating highly regarded Bodemeister along with Liaison and Midnight Transfer, who will face him today.
That last race showed us a lot about Creative Cause and where he is at this moment. He had to go five wide around the final turn, and even when he drifted in and out in the stretch, once Rosario straightened him out he won pulling away.
He earned a whooping 102 Beyer figure for that effort. That is by far the best of the runners today.
Creative Cause is owned by Heinz Steinmann and trained by Mike Harrington, and has been placed as the the 6-5 morning-line favorite.
Distance should not be a problem and he has been working lights out for this race. He will have the blinkers off for the first time and is rightfully the favorite of this race, should be considered among the top of all wages on the first Saturday of May.
His main challenge might come from the Doug O'Neill-trained I'll Have Another. The Robert B. Lewis Stakes winner is 2-for-4 lifetime, and his only loss was on the slope at the Hopeful last September.
He did not run again until his surprising (43-1 odds) and easy win at the Robert B. Lewis. The colt received a 96 Beyer for that race, and the questions are whether it was a one-time wonder or whether he has peaked too soon.
The risks of a bounce are very present on this horse.
Trainer Bob Baffert, who had a heart attack last week while in Dubai to attend his duties with The Factor and Game on Dude on the DWC, is back to business as usual. And his main business is producing Stakes winners, especially Derby contenders.
He will send three horses, Liaison, Paynter and Bluskiesnrainbows, to try a defeat the favorite and earn themselves a spot on the Kentucky Derby starting gate.
Liason may be the best bet among the three contenders. He lost jockey Bejarano on the Robert B. Lewis and then finished fourth at the San Felipe, five lengths beaten by Creative Cause.
But his problem wasn't the five lengths. It was that he ran steady but never bid for a rally. He's been working great, but this is an Indian Charlie colt and the questions regarding stretching the distance remains.
Paynter was a visually impressive maiden winner on his debut two months ago. But there are many concerns surrounding him. First, the step up in class is huge for anyone that would go out and run on a Gr. I Derby prep out of a maiden race win.
Then his win was at only 5.5 furlongs. This race will be at nine furlongs, and that is another huge leap of faith to take on him. The one good thing is that jockey Martin Garcia picked him over Blueskiesnraibows, who will run blinkers-off today.
The one thing you never discount is Baffert. Because after all, he has won six of the last 16 runnings of this race.
From the rest, Midnight Transfer should be fitter for this race than he was for his three-year-old debut this year. He was third best to Creative Cause and Bodemeister at the San Felipe, and there is no shame on that.
With all due respect to Hall of Famer Mike Smith, Rosario preferred the Creative Cause mount for the San Felipe. That right there makes me pick him for second best and not beyond that.
John Stadler-trained Holy Candy impressed on his maiden win last time out but can use some improvement. If he stays to race here, he is a horse to keep a close eye on. He has the ability to rate just off the pace and make a move on the home stretch.
Longview Drive was disappointing in the first division of the Southwest. If you throw that one away, his run on the Sham Stakes gives him a chance here.
Senor Rain steps up in class for this race and must demonstrate he can run with this company before using him on all bets.
Brother Francis should benefit from the extra distance, he is a dangerous horse that should not be overlooked.
EXPECTED WINNER: 1 - Creative Cause
PLACE: - 8 - Midnight Transfer
SHOW: 6 - Paynter
Santa Anita Derby | Grade I | Purse: $750,000 | Distance: 9 Furlongs | Post Time: 2:30 p.m. PT
|1 ||Creative Cause ||J. Rosario ||M. Harrington ||6/5|
|2 ||Liaison ||R. Bejarano ||B. Baffert ||8/1|
|3 ||Holy Candy ||A. Quinones ||J.W. Sadler ||8/1|
|4||I'll Have Another ||M. Gutierrez||D. O'Neill||5/2|
|5||Longview Drive||R.A. Baze||J. Hollendorfer||12/1|
|6||Paynter||M. Garcia ||B. Baffert ||12/1|
|7||Senor Rain||E. Flores ||P. Miller||15/1|
|8||Midnight Transfer||M.E. Smith||C. Gaines ||10/1|
|9||Blueskiesnrainbows ||J. Talamo||B. Baffert ||20/1|
|10||Brother Francis ||G.K. Gomez||J. Cassidy||20/1|