He is on just about everyone’s winning short list. And no wonder. This colt has been honed with an old-fashioned, stamina-building Derby preparation with five starts as a 2-year-old, three starts as a 3-year-old. He has never finished off the board, never been beaten more than a length, never ducked a dance on either coast.
Talk about a baptism of fire. They have thrown everything at him. Creative Cause had his first start in a maiden sprint at Hollywood Park last July, winning by nearly five lengths in a waltz.
ONE TO WATCH: Creative Cause, getting an exercise session earlier in the week at Churchill Downs, has never finished off the board in his eight starts.
Then his owner, Heinz Steinmann, a Swiss-born ski resort proprietor, and his trainer, Mike Harrington, a 71-year-old graduate of bush tracks, threw Creative Cause straight into the deep end, the Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar, which he promptly won by nearly two.
KENTUCKY DERBY POST POSITIONS, ODDS
The horse hasn’t drawn an easy breath since. After his maiden win, Creative Cause has run in seven straight graded races, four of them Grade 1’s and four of them around two turns, a program at the highest level of racing that no other horse in this Derby can match.
Creative Cause also has delivered a slam-bang performance every time. He never falters, he never spits the bit, he never seems to tire. He’s an iron horse.
Though he won the Norfolk and the San Felipe (beating Bodemeister) before losing the Santa Anita Derby by a nose, Creative Cause’s best race probably was in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs last November, when he finished third, beaten a scant length, by Hansen and Union Rags.
Creative Cause will meet those horses again Saturday, but like them, he has proved he can run on Churchill’s surface, he can handle its two turns and be a force to be reckoned with.
“I don’t want to make excuses for the Breeders’ Cup,” Harrington said yesterday. “We got outrun. But the track that day was wet and uneven I don’t think it was a fair, even track. Mike Smith [the jockey] won two races that day coming down the outside. I think the track Saturday will be even.”
There is always a catch with every horse, and Creative Cause is no exception. You may not believe this, but Harrington swears it is true.
“He is afraid of crowds,” the trainer said. Seriously.
Now that will give horseplayers some pause because when they scramble out of the starting gate in the Derby, with 20 horses going helter-skelter, the track is going to be more crowded than a New York subway in the rush hour.
“He doesn’t like to be crowded,” Harrington added. “In deep stretch in the Santa Anita Derby, he was going head and head with two other horses and you could see he didn’t like it. The reason is that in the Del Mar Futurity, he got smashed around and annihilated, and I believe it has affected him ever since. He doesn’t like to be crowded.”
Harrington recalled a similar experience with a horse that won first out.
“I took him to Bay Meadows for his next race and he got annihilated,” he said. “He never ran again, it left such an indelible impression on him. He did not want to run because he was afraid he’d get hurt.”
Harrington appears not to be too concerned for Saturday.
“He’s on his game,” he said. “He worked half a mile here in 47.4. He was just cruising, a perfect work to set him up.”
Steinmann bought Creative Cause for a bargain $135,000 and he already has earned more than $860,000. Nevertheless, Steinmann probably could do with a nice pay day on Saturday.
He and his wife Lora have 11 children and 31 grandchildren. You can imagine their expenses just getting them to the Derby.
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