Creative Cause established himself as the favorite for the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) when he came from off the pace to defeat slightly favored Bodemeister in the $300,000 San Felipe Stakes (gr. I) March 10 at Santa Anita (VIDEO).
Creative Cause was back at the top of his game for the 1 1/16-mile San Felipe, his second start of the year against probably the deepest 3-year-old field of the season thus far. He defeated Bodemeister, a fast-developing colt from Bob Baffert's strong stable of sophomores, by three-quarters of a length while timed in a solid 1:41.84 on a fast track.
The $750,000 Santa Anita Derby April 7 is the next stop for Creative Cause.
Mike Harrington trains Creative Cause for Heinz Steinmann, who paid $135,000 for the gray/roan son of Giant's Causeway at the Keeneland September yearling sale in 2010. Bred in Kentucky by James C. Weigel, Creative Cause is out of the grade I winning mare Dream of Summer.
Creative Cause won the Norfolk Stakes (gr. I) last fall prior to a third-place effort in the Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I). Coming off a third-place finish in the seven-furlong San Vicente Stakes (gr. II) to begin his 2012 campaign he was made a very close 2-1 second choice (actually 2.20-1) behind the flashy Bodemeister, also 2-1 in the field of 10.
Harrington said he would not have been disappointed if Creative Cause had not won because he has the graded earnings to get into the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) May 5.
“I said all along it’s a progression and the only thing I hope is he doesn’t peak in the Santa Anita Derby instead of the Kentucky Derby," Harrington said. "That’s my job to kind of keep that from happening. I felt he would run big off the San Vicente. A lot of people thought the San Vicente was a bad race. I was ecstatic with it."
Joel Rosario had Creative Cause in perfect position down the backside, stalking a hot pace in fifth while clear on the outside. American Act took the early lead from Bodemeister, with longshots Tiz Point and Groovin' Solo also in contention. American Act led the field through quick fractions of :22.95 and :46.98 before he began to weaken. Bodemeister, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, then took a slight lead on the turn, clicking off six furlongs in 1:11.23.
Creative Cause went for an early move while five paths wide rounding the bend with Midnight Transferalso advancing smartly along the inside for Victor Espinoza. But Bodemeister was determined and continued to lead past the furlong marker as Creative Cause and Midnight Transfer challenged. Creative Cause, a little erratic through the lane, finally angled to the outside of Bodemeister in deep stretch and swept past in the final strides under left-handed urging to score an impressive victory.
“He was a little late switching (leads), but Joel said he didn’t have any trouble," Harrington said. "I don’t know exactly what the story was. Once he switched, he took off.”
Rosario said the race had a perfect set-up for Creative Cause's stalking style.
"There were a couple horses with speed up front, and when I saw that I just let him find his stride and go from there," he said. "My horse was a little green at the top of the lane, but I wanted to make sure that he didn’t wait for another horse to come beat him. He galloped out good after the wire which helps to show he may be the right horse for the Derby."
Bodemeister, turning in a great effort in just his third start, held on to be a clear second by 2 1/4 lengths over Midnight Transfer.
"He was really comfortable," Bejarano said of Bodemeister, who was making his stakes debut. "He showed me a big kick in the stretch. (Creative Cause) had to run really hard to beat me."
Midnight Transfer, in his first try around two turns for trainer Carla Gaines after winning the 6 1/2-furlong San Pedro Stakes Jan. 22, weakened in the final sixteenth after dropping down to the inside for a clear run.
The Baffert-trained Liaison , winner of the CashCall Futurity (gr. I) in December, came on late to finish fourth as the third choice, 5 1/2 lengths behind the winner.
Creative Cause improved his career mark to 4-1-2 in seven starts with earnings of $719,000. He was one of two colts in the race for Steinmann and Harrington. The other, Empire Way, finished ninth.
"This horse will run back in the Santa Anita Derby," Harrington said of the winner. "(Empire Way) will go someplace else. I don’t know why he didn’t run today, but maybe he didn’t like dirt in his face, whatever, but he won’t run back here.”
Creative Cause carried 123 pounds, five more than the runner-up, and paid $6.40, $3.40, $2.60. Zayat Stables' Bodemeister, who was a late replacement by Baffert for a sick Fed Biz in the San Felipe lineup, returned $3.40 and $2.80. The two favorites combined for a $22.20 exacta. Warren Williamson's Midnight Transfer paid $6 to show.
Liaison was followed by Rousing Sermon, Blingo, American Act, Tiz Point, Empire Way, and Groovin' Solo.