Well-known radio personality Tim Conway Jr. was host for a festive post-position draw held at Santa Anita’s Front Runner restaurant ahead of Saturday’s 75th running of the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (Grade I), which will see ten horses run 1 1/8-miles on the main track.
The top two contenders in the premier event for three-year-olds at The Great Race Place are saddled by trainers looking for their first win in the race, with Mike Harrington sending 6-to-5 morning-line favorite Creative Cause and Doug O’Neill’s I’ll Have Another listed as the 5-to-2 second choice.
A three-time graded stakes winner, Creative Cause drew post No. 1 looking to further solidify himself as the top colt from California pointing towards the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May. The son of Giant’s Causeway is piloted by the meet’s leading rider Joel Rosario, who at the age of 27 is seeking his first taste of major success on a national level.
“The last time turning for home he was waiting a little bit on horses with the blinkers on, so hopefully the move to take them off helps him be a little bit more focused,” said Rosario of his colt that makes the equipment change for the first time in his career.
Perfect in his only try this year after winning the Robert B. Lewis (Grade II) at 43-to-1 on Feb. 4, I’ll Have Another lands in post No. 4 with Mario Gutierrez aboard his first Santa Anita Derby mount. After riding primarily at Hastings Park in Canada, the opportune acquisition of the mount aboard the son of Flower Alley marked the first significant victory for Gutierrez since moving his tack to California.
“He ran so well off the five-month freshening, we figured we’d try it again with a two-month break,” said O’Neill. “It’s great having Mario and I know it means a lot to him to have this chance. He’s really stepping up and showing he deserves it and the horse really runs for him.”
It’s no surprise that trainer Bob Baffert sends a trio of runners in search of his seventh Santa Anita Derby win and third in the last four years. However, with his big guns pointed elsewhere, the trio that stays home has had only modest success in 2012.
Still not feeling 100% after suffering a heart attack in Dubai less than two weeks ago, Baffert missed watching long shots Liaison (8-1) draw post No. 2, Paynter (12-1) post No. 6 and Blueskiesnrainbows (20-1) post No. 9.
Carla Gaines shoots to become the second female trainer to win the Santa Anita Derby, as she sends Midnight Transfer at 10-to-1 off his third-place finish behind Creative Cause in the San Felipe (Grade II) on March 10. Making his second start around two turns, the son of Hard Spun will break from post No. 8 under Mike Smith, who currently has 4,998 wins in his career.
“He’s a horse that’s developed on his own. A small horse with a big attitude,” said Gaines. “We have a great team so we’re looking forward to it.”
After three runner-up efforts to begin his career, Holy Candy finally broke through impressively two weeks ago and drew post No. 3, but will not make the quick turnaround for John Sadler and instead point to next weekend's $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (Grade I) at Keeneland. Candy Ride is the sire for both Holy Candy and 2010 Santa Anita Derby winner Sidney’s Candy, who was also trained by Sadler.
Post time for the Santa Anita Derby is approx 5:40 p.m. Eastern / 2:40 p.m. Pacific with live national television coverage on NBC from 4:30 – 6 p.m. E.T. and 1:30 – 3 p.m. P.T. The 90-minute telecast also includes coverage of the $1 million Wood Memorial (Grade I) from Aqueduct and $500,000 Ashland Stakes (Grade I) from Keeneland.
Below is the complete field for Saturday's Santa Anita Derby, including post position, morning line and a brief comment.
PP Horse (Morning Line Odds) Comment
1. Creative Cause (6-5) Rosario’s ticket to super-stardom.
2. Liaison (8-1) Fortunes turned in pair of 2012 starts after racking up $469,560 in 2011.
3. Holy Candy (SCR) Heads to Kentucky for the Blue Grass Stakes.
4. I’ll Have Another (5-2) Wasn’t able to hold off Creative Cause in Best Pal at Del Mar.
5. Longview Drive (12-1) Trio of Grade III defeats after three straight wins at No Cal fairs.
6. Paynter (12-1) From beating three runners going short to Grade I going long.
7. Senor Rain (15-1) Perfect 2-for-2 over Santa Anita’s main track.
8. Midnight Transfer (10-1) Keeps stretching distance limits after encouraging San Felipe.
9. Blueskiesnrainbows (20-1) Wins have come against far inferior competition.
10. Brother Francis (20-1) Maiden closed from far back sprinting on dirt in debut.
To view my horse racing channel on YouTube click here!
Listen to my weekly HD Los Angeles sports podcast!