Odds-on choice Creative Cause staked his claim as Southern California's top juvenile colt when he galloped to a 1 3/4-length victory in the Best Pal Stakes (gr. II) at Del Mar Aug. 7 (VIDEO).
Creative Cause, who posted an eye-catching debut maiden win at Hollywood Park one month ago, traveled the 6 1/2-furlong Best Pal distance in a swift 1:15.62 while bettering five other 2-year-old colts. The final time was the fastest for the Best Pal in the last five years since Del Mar switched to a Polytrack surface in 2007.
The victory went to owner Heinz Steinmann and trainer Mike Harrington, who teamed to win the Best Pal in 1996 with Swiss Yodeler.
A gray/roan by Giant's Causeway , Creative Cause is out of the Siberian Summer mare Dream of Summer, a a grade I winner that earned more than $1.1 million. James C. Weigel bred Creative Cause, a $130,000 yearling purchase at Keeneland last September. Steinmann bought Creative Cause privately during the spring, according to Harrington.
"I'm speechless," Harrington told TVG while making his way to the winner's circle. "I was just hoping we wouldn't be disappointed."
Creative Cause won his debut at Hollywood going five furlongs by nearly five lengths while earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 98 on the Cushion Track.
Ridden again by Rafael Bejarano in the Best Pal, Creative Cause showed an ability to rate on the inside of Galex and behind pacesetter I'll Have Another and Brigand on the far outside. The pace was solid as I'll Have Another, who went to the lead from the inside post for Joel Rosario, tipped the timer in :22.55 for the opening quarter-mile and :45.15 for the half.
Leaving the turn, I'll Have Another began to edge away from Brigand, who came under a ride by Garrett Gomez. Creative Cause, angled off the rail, quickly came to challenge while three wide in upper stretch. Under steady handling, Creative Cause swept past the tiring Brigand and collared I'll Have Another past mid-stretch, drawing off in the final strides to win impressively.
Bejarano said he was concerned about getting Creative Cause away from the gate out of post 2 without a problem.
"But he was really relaxed," he said. "I had my perfect position. Then he showed me a big kick, like he did in his debut. He has a lot more to give. After this race, he'll improve a lot."
Mighty Monsoon, last for most of the journey, rallied belatedly for Victor Espinoza to get third, 3 1/4 lengths behind the runner-up. Trainer Bob Baffert, looking for his record eighth win in the Best Pal, saddled fourth-place finisher Brigand, a $925,0000 Ocala buy in March, as well as Night Tide, who ran fifth. Galex trailed.
The Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) at seven furlongs on closing day Sept. 7 is likely next for Creative Cause, who earned $90,000 for the victory and paid $3.60, $2.60, and $2.10.
“This is really special for Mr. Steinmann," Harrington said. "He spent a lot of money for three horses. I might have a couple better than this one, but you won’t see them for a while. Maybe this fall, maybe next year. We bought them all for 3-year-olds and we’re in no hurry with any of them.
“If all goes well we’ll run him in the Futurity. It’s a ‘Win and You’re In’ race (for the grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile), so why wouldn’t you run him in it?”
J. Paul Reddam's I'll Have Another, a debut maiden winner for Doug O'Neill July 3 at Hollywood, returned $5 and $4.20. The exacta was $16.
Mighty Monsoon posted his third consecutive third-place finish in a stakes race for trainer Jeff Bonde and paid $4.80.
Curfew Tower scratched.