With 11 children and 44 grandchildren, Heinz Steinmann can’t have a small family get-together. Now that his horse Creative Cause heads to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) as one of the leading contenders, the next family reunion will be a particularly large contingent at Churchill Downs.
“We’ve got about 50 people going, including about half of the grandchildren,” said Steinmann, who lives in Wrightwood, Calif. “We’re going to fly into Nashville a day early and see things there. Then we plan to rent a couple of buses to go up to Louisville.”
Creative Cause, a beautiful gray colt with a ground-devouring stride, has traveled to Churchill Downs before. Trained by Mike Harrington, the Kentucky-bred son of Giant's Causeway —Dream of Summer, by Siberian Summer, won the Best Pal Stakes (gr. II) and Norfolk Stakes (gr. I) in California before finishing third in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) at Churchill last fall. His preps this year include a victory in the San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) and a second in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I).
It’s fitting that Steinmann’s family will join him in Kentucky. Daughter Annie Downs indirectly got him involved with racing in the late 1970s.
“She couldn’t tolerate regular milk or goat milk out of a can,” said Steinmann. “I had to go get some fresh goat milk every other day for her.”
In the course of those goat-milk forays, Steinmann became friends with a local Thoroughbred breeder, who sold him the mare Joan Poole. Bred to Terresto, Joan Poole produced a filly Steinmann named Tessie E. after another daughter.
Today, Annie and her daughter Whitney ride jumpers.
“Whitney, who’s now 16, last year was a national champion jumper,” said the proud grandfather. “They’ve really taken to the horses.”
Annie and Whitney come by their love of horses and their athletic ability naturally. Not only does Steinmann enjoy his horses, he is a former snow-skiing champion. Born in Switzerland, he emigrated with his family to the U.S. at age 16. Steinmann later became captain of the UCLA ski team, which went undefeated for two years during Steinmann’s tenure.
Steinmann’s father and a partner built the Holiday Hill ski resort in Southern California. Eventually, Steinmann and his wife, Lora, ran Holiday Hill.
“We raised our family at Holiday Hill,” said Steinmann. “We lived right there at the ski area. It was a terrific place to raise a family. We had jobs for all the kids.”
The racehorses came along a short time later, and Steinmann had his greatest success after teaming up with Harrington as his trainer. Harrington’s purchases for the owner included Swiss Yodeler, winner of the 1996 Hollywood Futurity (gr. I) and a leading sire in California.
Harrington also selected Creative Cause, buying him as a 2-year-old. Initially, Steinmann gave Harrington a budget and the trainer purchased two horses. But then he saw Creative Cause.
Steinmann recalled that Harrington called him one evening to tell him about the gray colt . “He said, ‘This horse, you’ve got to have him, but we’re going over the limit.’ I said fine.”
It was a wise decision, one that could pay off the first Saturday in May.
“He’s a tough horse, as tough as can be,” said Steinmann, “and that’s what it will take.”