SANTA ANITA DERBY | PURSE: $750,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS | GRADE 1 | 1 1/8-MILES
ARCADIA, Calif. -- When trainer Doug O'Neill was going through a barren stretch in recent years, owner Paul Reddam never wavered from his corner. And though both O'Neill and Reddam could have reached out for a more prominent rider for their top 3-year-old I'll Have Another, they stuck with Mario Gutierrez.
That loyalty was richly rewarded Saturday, when I'll Have Another, under a savvy ride from Gutierrez, outbattled favored Creative Cause and won the Grade 1, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby by a nose, which set off a raucous celebration in the winner's circle.
Reddam, who runs the lending company CashCall, had an office party at the track Saturday. Six buses were needed to transport everyone, and it seemed like every employee came to the winner's circle.
"Everyone from the office that drinks, I can tell you that," Reddam cracked.
They even had room in the winner's circle for the horse, who got a crash course in what the atmosphere might be like at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day, May 5.
I'll Have Another ($10.20) was the widest of three horses heading to the wire, with Creative Cause between rivals and 42-1 shot Bluesskiesnrainbows, the early pacesetter, bravely fighting back along the rail. Bluesskiesnrainbows finished just a half-length behind Creative Cause.
Paynter was fourth and was followed, in order, by Brother Francis, Liaison, Midnight Transfer, Senor Rain, and Longview Drive. Holy Candy was scratched earlier in the day and will instead run next Saturday in the Grade 1, $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.
I'll Have Another was timed in 1:47.88 for 1 1/8 miles on the fast main track. The win was his third in five starts. He is 2 for 2 this year, having won the Robert Lewis Stakes on Feb. 4 in his first race in five months.
"Indescribable, unbelievable," said Gutierrez, who came here from Hastings Park in October. "The Kentucky Derby is every jockey's dream. I'm no different."
I'll Have Another was keen the early part of the race, but Gutierrez was able to keep him just behind and to the outside of Blueskiesnrainbows through fractions of 23.11 seconds for the opening quarter-mile, 47.11 for a half-mile, and 1:11.14 for six furlongs. Creative Cause, who started from the rail, was midpack, near the rail.
As the field raced around the far turn, I'll Have Another bid for the lead, but just then Creative Cause shot through inside under Joel Rosario. He then angled out for what proved to be a spirited stretch run, but I'll Have Another held him off.
"He had a big kick at the end," Gutierrez said.
Mike Harrington, who trains Creative Cause, said he had "no excuses."
"He just got outrun today," Harrington said.
Harrington took blinkers off Creative Cause for the first time for the Santa Anita Derby and said he would leave them off for the Kentucky Derby.
"I thought he ran great today," Harrington said.
Both I'll Have Another and Creative Cause will head to the Kentucky Derby. O'Neill said I'll Have Another would depart for Churchill Downs "in the next week or so."
Harrington said Creative Cause would leave California on April 28.