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Kentucky Derby and Horse Racing at The Downey Profile®

Santa Anita Derby: ‘Cause' to Take Notice

4/5/2012

By Greg “The Commish” Johnson
The Downey Profile


The Grade I Santa Anita Derby is indeed a major Derby prep, but it’s been 22 years since this great race winner, Sunday Silence, roared home to victory in the Kentucky Derby. With 10 hopefuls heading toward the gate, none appear to be more possible to break that trend than the Mike Harrington-trained Creative Cause.

After a rocky weekend for some of the top rated horses on the Derby Trail, Creative Cause has jumped close to, if not right to the top of many lists. He's a winner of four of seven lifetime and over $700,000 in career earnings, with two of those wins coming in graded stakes at this track. Both of them came with top west coast jockey Joel Rosario in the irons, who retains the mount again.

Every race this pony has run, especially around two turns, clearly reveals one common element -- a desire to run further. The only question is whether he will establish himself as the clear favorite on May 5 when all is said and done on Saturday.

Six-time Santa Anita Derby winning trainer Bob Baffert has three entered, including the Grade I CashCall Futurity winner Liaison. He has more than enough graded earnings for that big dance in May, but we have yet to see a solid 2012 effort in two races over this strip. Raphael Bejarano is slated to ride.

I’ve always wondered if there’s some important reason to blow a horse out in a workout (1:10.80 for six furlongs on April 2) five days before he stretches out to a distance he has never run. If Liaison left part of his race out there Monday morning, then a piece looks to be his ceiling.

Completing the Baffert trio are Blueskiesnrainbows, a two-time winner but untested in graded company, and Paynter, a recent maiden winner at Santa Anita in a 5 1/2-furlong sprint. I guess if you can make the case that lightning can strike twice, a la Midnight Interlude last year, then be my guest. But neither of these guys have had the prep coming into this race that last year’s winner did.

I'll Have Another, the ultra sharp 43-1 winner of the Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes, is trained by Doug O’Neill, and has trained forwardly up to this race, his second of the year. The post-Lewis interview is one I won’t soon forget, as trainer and connections were beyond shocked at the outcome. They may want to try to steal this, and there are some different characters this time that look to press him every bit of the way -- and then the stalkers and closers come a runnin.’ It's hard for me to envision a repeat under such different conditions, and I will have to put this guy in the you-can’t bet-them-all category.

Midnight Transfer, who was most recently third in the Grade II San Felipe, gets the services of Mike Smith after Victor Espinoza suffered a wrist injury recently. This son of Hard Spun is another who needs a big jump in graded earnings to move on to Kentucky. Let’s see, third by less than four lengths in your first two turn event, moving way up the class ladder, posting an improved 97 Beyer Speed Figure, coming into to this with a bullet workout, and running behind Creative Cause and Bodemeister? Well, when you put it that way, there is sure a lot to like, isn’t there?

Among those completing the field are Brother Francis, a much-hyped maiden that has targeted this race since December; and Longview Drive, most recently a dead-heater for sixth in the Grade III Southwest Stakes but who ran a-tough-as nails third behind Secret Circle on this surface. He will have something to say early but looms a pace casualty if and when it gets too hot up front early.

If I were to take a stab at a longshot, it would be Senor Rain. He is a 10-time starter and recent fast winner of an $80K seven-furlong race at Santa Anita. He is also two-for-two at the track, and he likes to be on the front end, or very close thereto. He could be the speed and try to steal it. But if he can get relaxed early, it is not out of the question to hear track announcer Trevor Denman say, ‘this longshot is running a HUGE one….”

Holy Candy is of course the recent monster maiden winner who’s been banging heads with some good ones all year -- or has he. No question the three horses he lost to in the maiden ranks were all hyped out West as being Derby contenders, but over time, the results of their races reveal them as pretenders, not contenders. Tab for later this year, I will give him that.

PICKS FROM THE COMMISH:

1. CREATIVE CAUSE
2. MIDNIGHT TRANSFER
3. LIAISON
4. SENOR RAIN


As of this post, the weather in sunny Southern California looks to be dry and sunny with a high of 79 on Saturday.

The Santa Anita Derby, along with the Grade I Wood Memorial, will be televised live from 1:30-3:00pm EST on NBC. Got your winners yet?

Saturday, Race 6
Grade I Santa Anita Derby
Santa Anita
Purse: $750,000
Distance: 1 1/8 Mile
Surface: Dirt
Post Time: 5:30 ET

Post Horse   ML Jockey Wt S M Trainer
1 Creative Cause (KY)   6-5 J. Rosario 122 C L M. Harrington
2 Liaison (KY)   8-1 R. Bejarano 122 C L B. Baffert
3 Holy Candy (KY)   8-1 A. Quinonez 122 C L J. Sadler
4 I'll Have Another (KY)   5-2 M. Gutierrez 122 C L D. O'Neill
5 Longview Drive (KY)   12-1 R. Baze 122 C L J. Hollendorfer
6 Paynter (KY)   12-1 M. Garcia 122 C L B. Baffert
7 Senor Rain (IN)   15-1 E. Flores 122 G L P. Miller
8 Midnight Transfer (KY)   10-1 M. Smith 122 C L C. Gaines
9 Blueskiesnrainbows (VA)   20-1 J. Talamo 122 C L B. Baffert
10 Brother Francis (KY)   20-1 G. Gomez 122 C L J. Cassidy

Equipment Changes: 1 - Creative Cause - Blinkers off;9 - Blueskiesnrainbows - Blinkers off
Owners: 1 - Heinz Steinmann ; 2 - Arnold Zetcher, LLC ; 3 - Craig Stables & Donkey Island Racing, LLC ; 4 - Reddam Racing, LLC ; 5 - Steve Beneto ; 6 - Zayat Stables, LLC ; 7 - Gary or Cecil Barber ; 8 - Warren B. Williamson ; 9 - Bad Boy Racing, LLC or Whizway Farms ; 10 - Norman Cheng
Breeders:
1 - James C. Weigel; 2 - William A. Carl Estate; 3 - Craig Family Trust; 4 - Harvey Clarke; 5 - Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC; 6 - Diamond A Racing Corp.; 7 - Martin Stables Inc.; 8 - Alpha Delta Stables, LLC; 9 - Edward P. Evans; 10 - Norman Cheng

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