The Morning Line: Santa Anita Derby

The Target is Creative Cause, aka Number 1

Creative Cause Scores in the San Felipe

The final stepping stone on the road from California to Kentucky has arrived and Santa Anita has the chance to set the trail on fire. The G1 $750,000 Santa Anita Derby is as much of a staple on the Kentucky Derby trail as any of the preps and it holds its place amongst many of the all time California classics. A deep field is scheduled to enter the starting gate and of the 10, 9 of them will be gunning for #1. He’s number 1 because he’s the top ranked West Coast Kentucky Derby contender and on Saturday you will find him leading the post parade wearing No. 1. Creative Cause has earned every bit of it until Saturday when he will be put to the test again. He’s got the tools to carry on to Kentucky as a potential derby favorite but watch out because the field is ready to steal the spotlight.

Crunch time in California – Before we jump into Creative Cause vs. the field let’s take a look at one important factor on the Kentucky Derby trail; Who’s Out vs. Who’s In. 

In: Creative Cause and Liaison, both ranked inside the top ten at #3 and #9 respectively, have nothing to lose in terms of their Kentucky Derby qualification. Tickets are punched so you will find them racing according to their connections instructions and main goal: Last step before making their best run at the roses.

On the Bubble: I’ll Have Another, Brother Francis, Longview Drive. All three are in a more comfortable non-qualifier position. Nerve racking but less intense, they will not have to face the intimidating task of having to win in order to qualify. Since all of them are closely ranked just outside of the top 20, a 2nd place finish or possibly even 3rd should toss them into qualification. Between them, I’ll Have Another is ranked the highest at #21.

Out: The remaining 5 have only one way to enter the starting gate for the 138th Kentucky Derby: WIN. It’s a tough hill to climb but it can be done.

Now since we know what’s a stake let’s turn out attention back to the race and more importantly the Hollywood Star. Creative Cause has been dominating the scene out west and on Saturday you will find him sporting a brand new look: No Blinkers. Following 7 starts and 4 wins, trainer Mike Harrington has decided that it’s time to shed the blinkers for the very first time. Harrington has decided that despite his win last time out Creative Cause has had a tendency to wander a bit down the stretch. The blinkers coming off is an attempt to keep Creative Cause focused on his surroundings, more importantly the horses challenging outside of a very narrow window of vision.

Creative Cause strikes me as a horse that has been on a very well thought out and calculated trail towards the Kentucky Derby. The main reason it is so apparent is because he hasn’t veered off the path that Harrington has envisioned him riding towards Churchill Downs. Before scoring in the 1 1/16 Mile Norfolk Stakes, the prize win of the 2-yr-old season, Creative Cause finished 2nd in the 7F Del Mar Futurity. The reason that is mentioned is because following his 3rd place in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile behind Hansen and Union Rags, Creative Cause opened his 3-yr-old season back at 7 Furlongs in the San Vicente. Again, that distance was not his forte but it set the table for a return at 1 1/16 Mile in the San Felipe where he won again. His development on the way to May has him tracking to the Kentucky Derby Distance of 1 ¼ Mile. The Santa Anita will shed more light on that progression so it will be very attention-grabbing if he shows anything less. Joel Rosario is up for this 5th consecutive ride so expect him to know what Creative Cause is telling him.

Handicapper Advantage: Holding Form – Since his San Felipe win his 3 works at Hollywood Park went very well and are very ideal. 3/20 5F 59.80 – 3/28 6F 1:12.80 – 4/3 4F 48.40

I’ll Have Another is the number one challenger. His career thus far cannot match Creative Cause and his chances at a KyDerby win hinge on his Santa Derby performance. In the single race that they faced each other, G2 Best Pal last August at Del Mar, it was Creative Cause that took to the winners circle after passing I’ll Have Another in the stretch. From there I’ll Have Another went on to the Three Chimney’s Stakes at Saratoga. The below par 6th place finish was a wrap on his 2-yr-old season as he spent the remainder recovering from a shin injury. Combined, it left him with a lot of work to do in his 3-yr-old season.

To his credit I don’t know how much he really worked in his 3-yr-old debut, an easy win in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes on 2/4. To me he looked fantastic and in control more so than the field at the distance of 1 1/16 Mile. There was a lot of potential when he cleared under Mario Gutierrez. He showed a lot of energy and looked like he had more in the tank for a longer distance. He is in line to race twice as a 3-yr-old before the Kentucky Derby but I sense that Trainer Doug O’Neil has got a good feeling about this gap between races. Look for I’ll Have Another to stalk slightly closer to the pace setter than Creative Cause and attempt to pull away with too much for him to catch.

Handicapper Advantage: Unorthodox Route – Tough sell but for anyone looking for a horse that has a very unique story heading into the Kentucky Derby this may be your horse. There aren’t many 3-yr-olds that train at no less than 7 Furlongs to as far as 1 Mile but I’ll Have Another did at Hollywood Park in his last 3 works.

Now to the Santa Anita Derby King, Bob Baffert and his top contender Liaison. I can’t easily throw that word around but when you’ve won more Santa Derby’s than any other trainer it just comes with the territory. Last year Baffert broke his own record when Midnight Interlude won and it became his 6th career SA Derby win. So that leads us to 2012 where we’ll find out if the record increases or is on a break. Leading the way for the record to stay alive is Liaison.

Liaison has simmered down since the conclusion of his 2-yr-old season when he followed up his MSW win with back to back scores in the Real Quiet Stakes and the G1 CashCall Futurity. He is off to a slow start in 2012 – 8th Robert B. Lewis; 4th San Felipe – but Baffert seems very confident in this colts ability at a distance greater than 1 1/16. Where better to test that than the Santa Anita Derby and a distance of 1 1/8. It will add a lot of flare if he can but if not Baffert always has a back up plan – he has 2 more entries Blueskiesrainbows and Paynter.

Handicapper Advantage: Did I mention Bob Baffert?

Finally, Brother Francis, Longview Drive and Midnight Transfer represent those that could rewrite the Kentucky Derby West Coast contenders. They will need a big performance to make the field but if they win on Saturday their chances will overwhelmingly be reconsidered. The talent is there but it just needs to fire when the curtain rises on the main stage.

G1 $750,000 Santa Anita Derby | 1 1/8 Mile | Dirt | Race 6, Post Time 2:30

PP HORSE                                        JOCKEY            TRAINER                ML ODDS        

  1. Creative Cause (KY)                  J. Rosario         M. Harrington              6-5
  2. Liaison (KY)                               R. Bejarano       B. Baffert                       8-1
  3.  Holy Candy (KY)                      A. Quinonez      J. Sadler                        8-1
  4. I’ll Have Another (KY)             M. Gutierrez      D. O’Neill                     5-2
  5. Longview Drive (KY)                R. Baze               J. Hollendorfer           12-1
  6. Paynter (KY)                              M. Garcia           B. Baffert                      12-1
  7. Senor Rain (IN)                         E. Flores            P. Miller                        15-1
  8. Midnight Transfer (KY)           M. Smith           C. Gaines                       10-1
  9. Blueskiesnrainbows (VA)        J. Talamo          B. Baffert                       20-1
  10. Brother Francis (KY)                G. Gomez          J. Cassidy                      20-1

More good news is that the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” will continue with the Santa Anita Derby and Wood Memorial on NBC Sports at 4:30 pm et. Good luck to all of the Santa Anita Derby entries and their connections. We look forward to an exciting show and to the shining stars we look forward to seeing you again at the Kentucky Derby.

Written By: Little Brink

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