By Dick Downey
Just six days after a 109-1 shot won a Kentucky Derby prep race, it was beginning to look like another shocker might unfold in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby. That is, until I'll Have Another and Creative Cause rallied to run one-two.
It was all Blueskiesnrainbows, a 42-1 shot, for most of the nine-furlong race at Santa Anita, and handicappers had to be thinking back on Hero of Order's win of the Louisiana Derby the previous Sunday.
Blueskiesnrainbows took control of the race right away and set fractions of :23.11, :47.11 and 1:11.14, while I'll Have Another and Mario Gutierrez tracked the longshot, followed by Longview Drive and Senor Rain. The race went with those four in charge until the far turn came into play.
First Senor Rain, then Longview Drive, began dropping out of contention while Blueskiesnrainbows and I'll Have Another kept going.
After breaking from post 1, Creative Cause had been positioned fifth, then sixth, then fourth while saving ground -- with blinkers off today. He began winding up for a strong run at the leader on the far turn. As he straightened toward the wire, Creative Cause, the 4-5 favorite, put away Blueskiesnrainbows and appeared to have the jump on I'll Have Another.
But the Grade II Robert B. Lewis winner was having none of it and came back to challenge Creative Cause. The two battled it out to the finish, and I'll Have Another came out on top by a nose with his head down at the wire.
Blueskiesnrainbows persevered to finish third, beaten only a half-length. Paytner, making only his second career start was fourth, 3 1/4 lengths behind Blueskiesnrainbows. Brother Francis, Liaison, Midnight Transfer, Senor Rain and Longview Drive followed them across the finish line. Holy Candy scratched.
I'll Have Another, making his second start of the year, was timed in 1:47.88. It was the fastest time in the Santa Anita Derby since 2000.
Sent off at 4-1, I'll Have Another paid $10.20, $4.20 and $3.60.
The Santa Anita Derby was worth $750,000. The winner's share of $450,00 moved the graded stakes earnings of I'll Have Another to $601,000.
Creative Cause, who had $686,000 graded earnings going into the Santa Anita Derby, picked up another $150,000. Blueskiesnrainbows and Paynter, who had never run in a stakes race, picked up $90,000 and $45,000 respectively. Brother Francis, still a maiden, bottomed out the purse with $15,000 to inch up his graded money to $135,000. Liaison had $393,000 graded earnings before after the race.
I'll Have Another is trained by Doug O'Neill and owned by J. Paul Reddam. Bred in Kentucky by Harvey Clarke, the colt is by Flower Alley. He's out of the Arch mare Arch's Gal. I'll Have Another was a bargain in retrospect. He was sold for $11,000 at the Keeneland September 2010 sale before Reddam got him a few months later for $35,000 at the Ocala 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale.
After winning his 2011 debut, I'll Have Another finished second to Creative Cause in the Grade II Best Pal, then was shipped to Saratoga and ran sixth in the Grade I Hopeful before taking the rest of the year off. The Santa Anita Derby was the fifth career start for I'll Have Another.
Winning trainer Doug O'Neill: “It was a great ride by Gutierrez. To me, he’s the closest thing to Bejarano we’ve got. He’s such a brilliant rider, and he’s got real finesse. He’s confident but a humble kid. If you can’t get Bejarano, why not Gutierrez?
Asked what was going through his mind down the stretch: “I saw Creative Cause come up on the inside and I thought for a split second, running second in the Santa Anita Derby is pretty freaking good. All the wins are big at the time, but right now, this feels as big as it ever gets.
“I loved the way the race unfolded and how Mario had him positioned going into the first turn. Creative Cause coming up on the inside definitely gave me a scare, but our horse fought on. He’s doing so good. Hopefully, he comes out of this good and if he’s 100 percent, it’s on to Louisville.”
Assistant trainer Dennis O'Niell: “I was thinking of the biggest wins in your life and I always thought Stevie Wonderboy (2005 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile) was it, but this tops it. It doesn’t get any better than this. It’s great for Paul Reddam. This is why you’re in the game.”
Mario Gutierriez, aboard I'll Have Another: “This is so unbelievable. He is such a good horse, and he gave me a big kick at the end. There wasn’t any doubt in my mind that my horse would give me everything in the stretch leading up to the wire.”
Mike Harrington, trainer of Creative Cause: “(Joel Rosario) rode him good, he said the horse tried, he just got outrun. That happens. I thought the horse ran a helluva race. I thought Joel rode him perfectly. The other horse beat us today, but will he beat us next time? I don’t know.”
Will blinkers stay off for the Kentucky Derby? “Sure, I mean, why not? He was more focused. I mean, he never bobbled today. He ran his race. He just got outrun. That happens in this sport. He’s not tired. He’ll come out of this race. He ran such a huge race last time, he couldn’t improve on that race too much. I mean, how far can you go? He ran a zero Thoroughgraph in the last race, so how much further can you go?
“This will set him up. He ran hard. It didn’t hurt him. He’s still got a lot left in him. Maybe the other horse had to run too hard to beat him. We won’t know for four weeks.”
Joel Rosario, Creative Cause: “Everything went well. I’ve ridden the winner before, and he can run. My horse gave me 100 percent, but I think we were second-best today. Sometimes it’s hard to keep winning. I waited inside and had a perfect trip. No excuses today, just second best.”
Joe Talamo, Blueskiesnrainbows: “We had an absolutely perfect trip. We got to the lead and had real easy fractions, nobody pressed us. He ran a really incredible race. Obviously, any time we go in a race we want to win, but that’s by far the best race he’s ever run. He really ran a winning race."
Rafael Bejarano, Liaison, sixth: “My horse broke really good from the gate, and I had a really nice trip. I just followed instructions from the boss. I was right behind the favorite, Creative Cause, and I had a good trip by the rail, but by the three-eighths pole, he started jumping. He didn’t feel like he really liked the track. I tried to come between horses, but he started getting tired and jumping, and he was done after that. He tried hard, but I don’t think he really feels comfortable on this track.”
Mike Smith, Midnight Transfer, seventh: “I thought the eight hole was going to be really good for us, and it backfired on us. I got hung out on both turns so bad. I never did get to save any ground at any point. It didn’t cost me the race by no means but I could have been up there a whole lot closer.”