Lightly raced I'll Have Another , running for the first time in two months, dug in through the stretch to stave off odds-on favorite Creative Cause by a nose in a tremendous finish to the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) April 7 (VIDEO). An on-track crowd of 33,166 was reported.
On a gorgeous spring afternoon at Santa Anita Park, Mario Gutierrez provided a perfect ride to register the biggest win of his life with I'll Have Another. The winning son of Flower Alley had not raced since posting a 43-1 shocker in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) by nearly three lengths Feb. 4.
Trainer Doug O'Neill, wanting a fresh horse for the upcoming Triple Crown series, opted not to run his athletic chestnut colt again before the Santa Anita Derby. Criticized in some quarters for the decision, O'Neill kept I'll Have Another sharp with a series of longer works over the Cushion Track at Hollywood Park.
Owned by J. Paul Reddam, I'll Have Another heads for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) May 5 at Churchill Downs with just five lifetime starts.
I'll Have Another was sent off as the 4-1 second choice in the field of nine 3-year-olds, completing the 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:47.88 over a fast track. It was the fastest Santa Anita Derby clocking since 2001 when Point Given was timed in 1:47.77. The stakes mark was of 1:47 flat was established by Lucky Debonair in 1965 and matched by Sham in 1973 and by Indian Charlie in 1998.
San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) winner Creative Cause, the 9-10 pick, was second while racing without blinkers for the first time. Blueskiesnrainbows, at 42-1 the least regarded of three entrants from trainer Bob Baffert, finished third after setting the pace.
“This is so unbelievable," said Gutierrez, who rode the winner for the first time in the Lewis Stakes. "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.”
Joel Rosario, aboard Creative Cause, gave full credit to the winner.
"I've ridden I'll Have Another before and he's a good horse. My horse gave me 100% but I think we were second-best today," Rosario said. "Sometimes it’s hard to keep winning. I waited inside and had a perfect trip. No excuses today, just second best.”
Blueskiesandrainbows, angled over quickly from the outside by Joe Talamo, took the lead into the clubhouse turn. I'll Have Another, tugging Gutierrez early on, stalked with Senor Rain and Longview Drive to his outside. Blueskiesandrainbows opened up a commanding 2 1/2-length lead on his rivals while clicking off quarter-mile splits of :23.11, :47.11, and 1:11.14.
Blueskiesandrainbows looked as though he was going to get away from the field leaving the far turn. Creative Cause, racing mid-pack slightly off the rail, advanced along the inside on the turn to be the first to challenge, passing I'll Have Another coming into the stretch. But I'll Have Another bid three wide to challenge as Blueskiesandrainbows' lead was reduced to a half-length at the furlong marker.
Those three battled across the track. Under strong urging, I'll Have Another got his head in front of Creative Cause, who was racing between foes. I'll Have Another held on in the final strides as Creative Cause inched closer in the shadow of the wire.
“I saw Creative Cause come up on the inside and I thought for a split second, running second in the Santa Anita Derby is pretty freaking good," O'Neill said. "All the wins are big at the time, but right now, this feels as big as it ever gets.
“I loved the way the race unfolded and how Mario had him positioned going into the first turn. Creative Cause coming up on the inside definitely gave me a scare, but our horse fought on. He’s doing so good. Hopefully, he comes out of this good and if he’s 100%, it’s on to Louisville.”
Creative Cause finished a half-length in front of Blueskiesandrainbows, making his stakes debut for Baffert, who was seeking his seventh win in the Santa Anita Derby. Stablemate Paynter was three-quarters of a length farther back in fourth. Baffert's other starter, CashCall Futurity (gr. I) winner Liaison , was no factor while finishing sixth.
"The other horse beat us today, but will he beat us next time? I don’t know,” said Creative Cause's trainer Mike Harrington. He said his gray colt would continue to race without blinkers in the Kentucky Derby.
“Sure, I mean, why not? He was more focused. I mean, he never bobbled today. He ran his race. He just got outrun. That happens in this sport.
“This will set him up (for the Kentucky Derby)," Harrington added. "He ran hard. It didn’t hurt him. He’s still got a lot left in him. Maybe the other horse (I’ll Have Another) had to run too hard to beat him. We won’t know for four weeks.”
I'll Have Another won the Lewis Stakes off a five-month layoff after injuring a shin while unplaced in last summer's Three Chimneys Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) over a sloppy track at Saratoga Race Course. Prior to that, he had established himself as one of the better 2-year-olds in Southern California. He won his maiden debut at Hollywood Park last July and then ran second to Creative Cause in the Best Pal Stakes (gr. II) at Del Mar.
O'Neill said prior to the race that he felt I'll Have Another would prove to be a better two-turn horse, which has been borne out so far in his two victories this year. Out of the Arch mare Arch's Gal Edith, I'll Have Another sold for $35,000 as a 2-year-old in training last April at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.
The Santa Anita Derby victory, worth $450,000, boosted his career bankroll to $634,000.
Under equal weights of 122 pounds, I'll Have Another paid $10.20, $4.20, $3.60. Creative Cause, whose ticket for the Kentucky Derby was already stamped, returned $2.60 and $2.40. The all-favorite exacta was worth $21.20. Blueskiesandrainbows paid $9.60 to show.
Paynter was followed by the maiden Brother Francis, Liaison, Midnight Transfer, Senor Rain, and Longview Drive. Holy Candy was scratched by trainer John Sadler in favor of the April 14 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I).