SAN FELIPE STAKES | PURSE: $300,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS | GRADE 2 | 1 1/16-MILES
ARCADIA, Calif. -- Creative Cause, back at the same distance and over the same track at which he won the Norfolk Stakes last fall, cemented his position as the West Coast's leading contender for the May 5 Kentucky Derby with a determined victory over Bodemeister in the Grade 2, $300,000 San Felipe Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita.
Under jockey Joel Rosario, Creative Cause sat in a perfect stalking position during the first six furlongs of the 1 1/16-mile race, engaged Bodemeister at the top of the stretch, and demonstrated his superiority in the final yards to win by three-quarters of a length in this key prep for next month's Santa Anita Derby.
Midnight Transfer, just behind and inside of Creative Cause on the final turn, ran on for third, 2 1/4 lengths behind Bodemeister.
Liaison was fourth and was followed, in order, by Rousing Sermon, Blingo, American Act, Tiz Point, Empire Way, and Groovin' Solo in the field of 10.
Creative Cause completed 1 1/16 miles on the fast main track in 1:41.84. The win was his fourth in seven starts, and he has never finished worse than third. In addition to his Norfolk win here in October, Creative Cause also was third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile behind two of the nation's other top Derby prospects, Hansen and Union Rags. He tuned up for the San Felipe with a deceptively good third-place finish going seven furlongs in the San Vicente Stakes on Feb. 19, in which he ran his final three furlongs in approximately 35.20 seconds and galloped out powerfully.
Creative Cause ($6.40), owned by Heinz Steinmann, was sent off the slight second choice behind Bodemeister, whose romping maiden victory last month propelled him to favoritism at exactly 2-1. But the experience and maturity of Creative Cause won out. He was far more becalmed in the paddock prior to the race than Bodemeister, perhaps because of an audible trainer Mike Harrington called Saturday morning.
"He schooled yesterday, and on his way back to the barn, he got tough," Harrington said. "So I schooled him again this morning, and he was better."
And Creative Cause was better in the race, too. While Bodemeister was keen to go after pacesetting American Act through fractions of 22.95 for the opening quarter-mile and 46.98 for a half-mile, Creative Cause loped along in fifth place, on the outside and in the clear, waiting for Rosario to turn him loose.
"I thought I was going to win easy," Rosario said, "but the other horse came back."
Indeed, Bodemeister ran a huge race in defeat, considering this was only his third lifetime start.
"He ran incredibly well," trainer Bob Baffert said. "It was a hot pace. I thought that was the best prep we've seen so far."
Both Creative Cause and Bodemeister are expected to come back in the Santa Anita Derby on April 7.