Freshened since running a close third behind Hansen and Union Rags in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5, Creative Cause will face five challengers in the elongated sprint that has served as a formidable launching pad for eight winners of the Kentucky Derby.
“He’s worked very nice,” said Harrington. “He seems to be coming up to the race fine. I think he’s on his game.” Jockey Joel Rosario concurs. “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 for a 3 ¾-length victory in Santa Anita’s Grade I Norfolk Stakes at 1 1/16 miles prior to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, a one-length setback while forced three wide around the final turn.
“His Breeders’ Cup race was a good one,” said Rosario. “I was impressed with it. Maybe he’s the right horse for the Derby, who knows?”
With earnings of $521,000 from a 3-1-1 record in five starts, Creative Cause won his first two starts sprinting including Del Mar’s Grade II Best Pal Stakes. He subsequently was roughed up in the stretch run of the Grade I Del Mar Futurity at seven furlongs.
After crossing the line third, one-length behind victorious Drill, Creative Cause was moved up to second following the disqualification of Majestic City, deemed responsible for the stretch-run bumping.
Drill, dusted by Creative Cause when second in the Norfolk preceding a tenth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, will try again for trainer Bob Baffert in the San Vicente.
The $300,000 yearling purchase by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman has not been able to reach the winner’s circle in five starts since his victory in the Del Mar Futurity. He went down to Creative Cause as the 3-5 favorite in the Norfolk. Drill, who will be accompanied by regular rider Martin Garcia, needs a dramatic turnaround to regain lost stature on the Derby trail. His overall record of 2-1-0 in eight starts has earned $249,710.
Maiden winner American Act could be the main danger to Creative Cause in the race that has produced Kentucky Derby winners Silver Charm (1997), Bold Forbes (1976), Majestic Prince (1969), Lucky Debonair (1965), Tomy Lee (1959), Swaps (1955), Determine (1954) and Hill Gail (1952).
Trained by Jack Carava for Howard and Janet Siegel, American Act did not break his maiden until his third start on Jan. 16, but he did so stylishly by two lengths over Baffert’s rapidly developing Bodemeister. The gelded son of Quiet American covered 5 ½ furlongs in 1:02.39 under Martin Pedroza.
“He looked pretty impressive,” Carava told Daily Racing Form. “It’s turned out to be a strong race. I think he’s a good horse. The first time we gave him a race, and the second time he was a good second.” Pedroza has the return riding call.
The complete field for the San Vicente Stakes, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Let’s Get Crackin, Victor Espinoza, 118; Creative Cause, Joel Rosario, 123; Drill, Martin Garcia, 123; Smoking G, Corey Nakatani, 118; American Act, Martin Pedroza, 118, and Captain Obvious, Mario Gutierrez, 118.
The San Vicente will be contested as the seventh race on a program of nine races. First post is scheduled for 12:30 p.m.