2012 Santa Anita Derby: Preview And Picks

LOUISVILLE, KY - NOVEMBER 2nd: Breeders' Cup Juvenile hopeful Creative Cause goes over the track during morning workouts for the upcoming Breeders' Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs on November 2, 2011 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Creative Cause looks to stamp himself as one of the favorites for the 2012 Kentucky Derby with a strong performance in this Saturday's Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby.

Since the first race in 1935, six winners of the Santa Anita Derby have gone on to win the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May. The last horse to accomplish the Santa Anita/Kentucky Derby double was the great Sunday Silence in 1989, a year in which he won the Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Breeders' Cup Classic. This year, ten three-year-old colts will attempt to take one more step toward horse racing immortality with a victory in the 2012 Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby on Saturday at Santa Anita Park. Creative Cause, one of the top contenders for the 2012 Kentucky Derby, drew the rail and morning-line favoritism at odds of 6/5.

Post time for Saturday's Santa Anita Derby is scheduled for 5:30pm Eastern/2:30pm Pacific and it will be televised by NBC.

Below are the entries, post positions and morning line odds for the Santa Anita Derby.

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

1-Creative Cause (6/5): The morning-line favorite is one of the top contenders for the 2012 Kentucky Derby after winning four races from seven starts, including three graded stakes events. He was 3rd behind Hansen and Union Rags in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last fall at Churchill Downs and he appears to be improving with each start. A big performance in the Santa Anita Derby could set him up to be the favorite in Louisville on the first Saturday in May. (For an in-depth look at Mike Harrington, trainer of Creative Cause, check out a recent profile of the trainer by Jared L. Christopher at And Down The Stretch They Come.)

2-Liaison (8/1): The first of three Bob Baffert trainees in the Santa Anita Derby, Liaison had an excellent juvenile season but has found things a lot tougher in in 2012. In his first start of the year, Liaison clipped heels in the stretch of the G2-Robert B. Lewis and threw jockey Rafael Bejarano. In the G2-San Felipe, he ran an even, yet unspectacular, race and finished a distant fourth behind Creative Cause. He’ll need a much improved effort if he’s to win this race.

3-Holy Candy (8/1): Another son of Candy Ride (ARG) owned by Craig Stables, continuing an excellent run of horses from that breeding operation (Twirling Candy, Sidney's Candy, etc.). Holy Candy, a recent maiden winner at Santa Anita, is making a huge jump in class after defeating just a field of five back on March 7. He’s an intriguing colt, but appears to be in a tough spot given the strength of this field.

4-I’ll Have Another (5/2): It’s hard to find faults with I’ll Have Another after he put up a big run to win the G2-Robert B. Lewis in his first start of 2012. The only poor performance of his brief career came in the slop at Belmont in last fall’s G1-Champagne Stakes. A colt that possesses a good deal of tactical speed, his best chance to beat Creative Cause is to see a moderate pace in the early stages, allowing him to get first run on his rival coming off the far turn. If he can conserve enough energy in in the first six furlongs, he could be awfully tough to get by in the final furlong.

5-Longview Drive (12/1): All of this colt’s wins have come against ungraded competition on the California fair circuits, which is a decidedly different class of racing than the Santa Anita Derby. He finished third behind Out of Bounds and Secret Circle in the G3-Sham, so he’s capable of putting in a big effort. His tactical speed should allow him to gain a good position in the early stages, but he needs to avoid getting into a pace duel with I’ll Have Another if he’s to have any shot at an upset.

6-Paynter (12/1): A $350,000 purchase as a yearling in 2010, Paynter has run just one race in his career, a Maiden Special Weight at Santa Anita back on Feb. 18that he won by four-and-a-fourth lengths while going five-and-a-half furlongs. Not only is he making a big jump in class in this race, he’s also stretching out to nine furlongs in just his second lifetime start. Paynter should be part of the early pace duel but will likely have trouble sustaining his run once he hits the top of the stretch.

7-Senor Rain (15/1): He’s finished in the money in seven of his 10 lifetime starts, but has don’t anything of note when facing stakes competition. It’s hard to see this gelding as anything but a pace presence.

8-Midnight Transfer (10/1): Last year’s Santa Anita Derby saw a horse named Midnight Lute spring the upset. Can Midnight strike two years in a row? Midnight Transfer finished third behind Creative Cause and Bodemeister in the G2-San Felipe and should be able to use his off-the-pace running style to his advantage if an expected hot pace develops.

9-Blueskiesnrainbows (20/1): Despite the colt’s name, it’s doubtful that the Santa Anita Derby is going to be full of blue skies and rainbows when the field crosses the finish line. This son of English Channel finished a well-beaten third in his last race against $80,000 Optional Claiming back on Feb. 9th, over 12 lengths back of the winner. It’s tough to see a horse that lost by that margin to a group of optional claimers winning this race unless Creative Cause and the other top contenders don’t show up.

10-Brother Francis (20/1): Every year, we see a maiden step up by winning a graded stakes race. Could Brother Francis pull off a similar feat in this year’s Santa Anita Derby? While a winning race is unlikely, this colt has shown enough ability in his four lifetime starts to be considered a contenders to finish in the top three. He finished third in the G1-CashCall Futurity last December, just one-and-three-fourths lengths behind Liaison and Rousing Sermon. Prior to that, he finished second to So Brilliant in the G3-Hollywood Preview.

The Pick

There appears to be plenty of speed in the field, which should make things pleasant for Creative Cause, and much more difficult for I’ll Have Another. Creative Cause won’t offer much in the way of a price on the tote board, but I’ll take him for the win and on top of Brother Francis and Liaison in the exacta.

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