Creative Cause, who confirmed his status as the leading Kentucky Derby contender in California with a good-looking victory in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes, will look to keep his momentum rolling when he lines for Saturday's $750,000 Santa Anita Derby, a Grade 1 event that has produced 15 Kentucky Derby winners. The Mike Harrington-trained colt tops a field of nine entered to the 75th running of the 1 1/8-mile event.
A Grade 1 winner at two, Creative Cause recorded an excellent third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and has never finished more than a length behind at the wire in any of his seven career starts. The gray colt proved best by three-quarters of a length when prevailing over the highly-regarded and slightly-favored Bodemeister in in the March 10 San Felipe. That rival will bypass the Santa Anita Derby and Creative Cause has been installed as the 6-5 favorite Saturday with jockey Joel Rosario, who is headed for his second consecutive Santa Anita riding title.
Creative Cause drew the rail and will attempt to give his 27-year-old jockey and 71-year-old trainer their first wins in Santa Anita's historic race for three-year-olds.
Interestingly, Harrington removes blinkers from his stable star, who has never raced without the headgear in place.
I'll Have Another, who posted a stunning 43-1 upset when returning from a six-month layoff in the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis Stakes, is the top challenger. Listed as the 5-2 second choice, I'll Have Another registered an excellent 102 BRIS Speed rating for the 2 3/4-length victory and has been freshened 63 days off the Lewis. Mario Gutierrez retains the mount for Doug O' Neill.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who has saddled six of the past 16 winners of the Santa Anita Derby including 13-1 outsider Midnight Interlude last year, entered three runners in Saturday's field: Liaison, Paynter and Blueskiesnrainbow. Liaison, the 8-1 co-third choice in the Santa Anita Derby field, is the most accomplished member of the trio, winning last December's Grade 1 CashCall Futurity, but is winless in two starts this year. Paynter, who will jump immediately to stakes company after capturing his career debut on February 18, is listed at 12-1, and two-time winner Blueskiesnrainbows, who could have been claimed for $30,000 last December, is 20-1 on the morning line.
Holy Candy needed four starts to break his maiden, but the well-regarded colt exits a dazzling 3 1/2-length score in which he galloped out strongly after the wire. He is also 8-1 with jockey Alonso Quinonez.
Midnight Transfer, third in the San Felipe after taking the six-furlong San Pedro Stakes, is pegged at 10-1
"I'll be a longshot in the Santa Anita Derby, but it is what it is," said Carla Gaines, who trains Midnight Transfer for Warren Williamson. "Mr. Williamson (who is 83) is having some health issues. He wants to see his horse run here and he wants to try the Derby, so the pressure is off. We're going to do it and see what happens."
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith replaces Victor Espinoza, who is sidelined with a broken hand.
The last maiden to win the Kentucky Derby was Broker's Tip in 1933, and such an occurrence has yet to transpire in the Santa Anita Derby. Brother Francis, therefore, faces an enormous challenge. But he closed strongly to finish third behind Liaison and Rousing Sermon in the CashCall Futurity at 1 1/16 miles, and the extra sixteenth may suit the winless son of Lion Heart trained by James Cassidy. Garrett Gomez takes over for Espinoza aboard Brother Francis, a 20-1 longshot.
Multiple stakes-placed Senor Rain, a recent allowance/optional claiming winner, rounds out the field at 15-1.