Grade 1 hero Creative Cause is scheduled to make his three-year-old debut on Sunday in Santa Anita's 71st running of the Grade 2, $150,000 San Vicente Stakes going seven furlongs. Freshened since running a close third behind Hansen and Union Rags in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs on November 5, Creative Cause will face five challengers in the elongated sprint that has served as a launching pad for eight winners of the Kentucky Derby.
According to Mike Harrington, who trains Creative Cause for Heinz Steinmann, the gray son of Giant's Causeway is more than ready for his first test of 2012 that is likely to lead up to the Grade 1, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby stretching out to 1 1/8 miles on April 7.
"He's worked very nice," Harrington remarked. "He seems to be coming up to the race fine. I think he's on his game."
Jockey Joel Rosario, who has been aboard for Creative Cause's past two races, agreed with Harrington's assessment.
"He could be a little fresh coming off a layoff," Rosario allowed, "but he's a great horse, and I love to ride him."
Rosario first became acquainted with Creative Cause when they teamed up for a 3 1/4-length victory in the Grade 1 Norfolk Stakes prior to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. That race saw the pair forced three wide around the final turn, resulting in a one-length setback on the wire.
"His Breeders' Cup race was a good one," Rosario said. "I was impressed with it. Maybe he's the right horse for the Derby, who knows?"
Creative Cause won his first two starts sprinting, including Del Mar's Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes, but was subsequently roughed up in the stretch run of the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity. After crossing the finish line in third in that race, he was moved up to second following the disqualification of Majestic City, deemed responsible for the stretch-run bumping.
Drill came out a neck winner in the Del Mar Futurity, but wound up second in the Norfolk behind Creative Cause preceding a 10th-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. The Lawyer Ron colt will take on his rival once again when lining up in the San Vicente for trainer Bob Baffert.
Drill needs a dramatic turnaround as he has not been able to reach the winner's circle in five starts since his victory in the Del Mar Futurity. Following his Breeders' Cup run, the bay was a well-beaten seventh in the Grade 3 Delta Downs Jackpot, ninth in the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity and fifth in the San Pedro Stakes to start his sophomore season on January 22. He will be accompanied by regular rider Martin Garcia in Sunday's contest.
Maiden winner American Act could be a danger to Creative Cause in the San Vicente. Trained by Jack Carava, the Quiet American gelding did not break his maiden until his third start on January 16, but he did so stylishly by two lengths over Baffert's rapidly developing Bodemeister. It should be noted that Bodemeister returned last Saturday to romp home an easy 9 1/4-length winner going a mile at Santa Anita.
American Act ran 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:02.39 while taking his initial win under Martin Pedroza, and will keep that rider in the saddle on Sunday while making his stakes bow.
San Pedro third Let's Get Crackin and Captain Obvious, fourth in the Real Quiet Stakes in his U.S. debut last November, bring valuable stakes experience into the San Vicente. Smoking G, who will be trying black-type company and a conventional dirt surface for the first time, completes the field.