The countdown is on in earnest for what one trainer calls the best and most competitive steppingstone to the May 5 Kentucky Derby—Saturday’s Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby.

“It’s a very good field,” said trainer Jim Cassidy, who runs 20-1 morning line chance Brother Francis from the outside post in a lineup of 10 entered for the mile and an eighth Santa Anita Derby. “It’s the best field so far this year, I think, as far as preps for the Kentucky Derby go, definitely.”

Headed by 6-5 morning line favorite Creative Cause, who drew the rail, the 75th edition of the Santa Anita Derby also attracted Robert B. Lewis Stakes winner I’ll Have Another, 5-2 second choice on Jon White’s morning line; CashCall Futurity winner Liaison; smashing maiden winner Holy Candy; and San Pedro Stakes winner Midnight Transfer, ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, who with 4,997 career wins was three short of the magical 5,000 milestone going into Thursday races at Santa Anita, where he was named on four horses.

Creative Cause, never worse than third in seven career starts and the top earner in the field with $719,000 for owner Heinz Steinmann, won once from the No. 1 post previously, when he broke his maiden in his first start, going five furlongs at Hollywood Park on July 16, 2011, winning by nearly five lengths.

Trainer Mike Harrington said drawing the rail wouldn’t have been his first choice, “but I can live with it,” although it’s always a concern that “you might get boxed in.” Harrington said Creative Cause would ship to Santa Anita from his Hollywood Park base tomorrow.

Ron Ebanks, agent for Joe Rosario, Santa Anita’s leading jockey who rides Creative Cause, said the rail was less problematical.

“If you’re in the five hole, the one hole or the 10 hole, you’ve got to have some racing luck,” Ebanks said. “Things can really develop wrong anyway. Going a mile and an eighth they’ve got a long run to the turn, he’s going to be forwardly placed I think, he’s a very good horse, and he’s got a very good rider on him. I have no worries about where he’s starting from. I’m glad he’s in the starting gate. He’s 6-5 for 750 and he’s got Rosario on him.”

Doug O’Neill, trainer of I’ll Have Another, was happy with the No. 4 post position. “We drew well and he’s training great,” O’Neill said by phone from his Hollywood headquarters. “He’ll gallop here Saturday morning and ship to Santa Anita after the gallop.”

I’ll Have Another galloped Thursday at Hollywood with his rider wearing a “helmet cam” for the benefit of NBC-TV, which will televise the Santa Anita Derby from 1:30 to 3 p.m. on Saturday.

John Sadler said a decision wouldn’t be made for another 48 hours on whether surprise entrant Holy Candy would run.

“We won’t decide until Saturday morning,” Sadler said of the son of Candy Ride, a smashing maiden winner at Santa Anita on March 23. Owned by the Craig Stables and Donkey Island Racing, of which New Orleans Saints star quarterback Drew Brees is part owner, Holy Candy has no graded earnings.

“We’re also looking at the Arkansas Derby and the Blue Grass,” Sadler said. “ We’ll have a conference call Saturday and make up our mind. What if he went back East and didn’t get in? The Illinois Derby is way overfilled, so a horse with low (graded) earnings is always last to draw in.

“We’ve got to work the races and the racing secretaries to see if we can get in. You don’t want to go somewhere and not get in. He’s entered here, the weather’s good, he’s got a good draw (No. 3), he’s got the home court, all that stuff. He’s got a lot in is favor, but we’ll look at everything and then decide.”

Bob Baffert, just back Monday from Dubai where he suffered a heart attack on March 26, said he is “feeling a lot better,” and “we’re good” for the big race. “We were hoping Liaison would run a little better last time (fourth by 5 ½ lengths behind Creative Cause in the 1 1/16-mile San Felipe on March 10), but he wants distance. I think the mile and an eighth will suit him better.”

“I don’t think the outside post will matter,” trainer Jim Cassidy said of the No. 10 post for maiden Brother Francis, adding with a laugh, “but they didn’t give me a choice.”

The Santa Anita Derby is one of four stakes races on the 11-race program that starts at 12 noon. Saturday’s local weather forecast calls for sunny skies with temperatures in the 70s.

The field for the Santa Anita Derby: Creative Cause, Joel Rosario, 6-5; Liaison, Rafael Bejarano, 8-1; Holy Candy, Alonso Quinonez, 8-1; I’ll Have Another, Mario Gutierrez, 5-2; Longview Drive, Russell Baze, 12-1; Paynter, Martin Garcia, 12-1; Senor Rain, Eswan Flores, 15-1; Midnight Transfer, Mike Smith, 10-1; Blueskiesnrainbows, Joe Talamo, 20-1; and Brother Francis, Garrett Gomez, 20-1.

There will be a $750,000 guaranteed Late Pick 4 on Santa Anita Derby Day. Elliott Yamin, who earned prestige for his third album, “Let’s Get To What’s Real,” will sing the National Anthem and God Bless America on Saturday.


Creative Cause, winner of the Grade II San Felipe Stakes in his most recent start, has been established as the 6-5 favorite on Jon White’s morning line for Saturday’s Grade I Santa Anita Derby.

When Creative Cause won the San Felipe, he did so as the $2.20-1 second choice. Runner-up Bodemeister was the 2-1 favorite. White said Creative Cause’s morning line price for the Santa Anita Derby is much shorter than it would have been if Bodemeister also had been in the field. But Bodemeister’s connections have opted to run him instead in the Grade I Arkansas Derby.

“Not only did Creative Cause win the San Felipe, but he earned a career-best 102 Beyer Speed Figure,” White said. “That is one of the main reasons I expect him to be a strong favorite in the Santa Anita Derby. When you look at the past performances for the Santa Anita Derby field, Creative Cause’s 102 really sticks out. Not only is it the only triple-digit Beyer in the field, Creative Cause just earned that figure on this track in his latest start. Union Rags is generally considered to be the Kentucky Derby favorite. His top Beyer is 95.”

White made I’ll Have Another the 5-2 second choice for the Santa Anita Derby.

“I’ll Have Another did not earn a triple-digit Beyer when he won the Lewis, but it still was a very good number (96),” White said. “And it really was a marvelous performance, especially considering he had not raced since last September. Crown of Thorns holds the stakes record for the Lewis (1:40.76), but he set that record on a synthetic surface. I’ll Have Another’s final time for the Lewis (1:40.84) was the fastest on dirt in the history of the race. It also was faster than Creative Cause’s final time (1:41.84) in the San Felipe by one full second.”

White said he closely monitored the Kentucky Derby Future Wager pool that closed last Sunday for help in making the morning line for the Santa Anita Derby.

“Even though Union Rags finished third in the Florida Derby, he still closed as a clear-cut 9-2 favorite among the 23 individual horses,” White noted. “Creative Cause and Hansen were next, each at 8-1. Two other Santa Anita Derby entrants, Liaison and Midnight Transfer, also were among the individual horses. Liaison closed at 49-1, Midnight Transfer at 80-1. That’s the main reason I made Midnight Transfer 10-1, instead of 8-1 like Liaison, for the Santa Anita Derby.”

White said it was not easy to come up with a morning-line price for recent maiden winner Holy Candy. “I made Holy Candy 8-1 and not higher largely because he has generated some buzz,” White said. “I know they are very high on him at the (John) Sadler barn. He certainly has been very popular with bettors, too. He’s been the favorite in each of his four races. His maiden win was impressive, too, especially the gallop out. On the other hand, his Beyer Speed Figures are pretty light. An 85 is his top Beyer.”


1. Creative Cause 6-5 Deserves top billing

2. Liaison 8-1 Reunited with Bejarano

3. Holy Candy 8-1 Seems to have much raw talent

4. I’ll Have Another 5-2 Fastest Lewis ever run on dirt

5. Longview Drive 12-1 Dangerous off good try in Sham

6. Paynter 12-1 Big class hike after easy debut win

7. Senor Rain 15-1 Facing tougher off 21-1 upset

8. Midnight Transfer 10-1 Extra distance could be issue

9. Blueskiesnrainbows 20-1 Trainer is his biggest plus

10. Brother Francis 20-1 Maiden has run 3rd in Grade I


Amazombie blew out four furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track Thursday morning in 47.40 for Saturday’s Grade II, $150,000 Potrero Grande Stakes at 6 ½ furlongs, although trainer Bill Spawr still left the door ajar for the Grade III Count Fleet Sprint Handicap at Oaklawn Park on April 14.

“We’ll see how the track plays the next few days,” Spawr said Thursday morning after sending Amazombie through his work shortly after 5 a.m. as is Spawr’s custom. Asked if he entered Thunder of Zion in the Potrero Grande as a “rabbit,” Spawr said, “We have to think he might win. He might be the only speed in the race.” Like California-bred Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion Amazombie, Thunder of Zion is owned by Spawr and Tom Sanford.

“I usually two-minute clip him two days out,” Spawr said when asked about the uncharacteristic half-mile drill for Amazombie, who worked six furlongs last Friday in 1:13.40. “But I wanted to get a little more serious, because it looks like I might run here, and I can always work him back if I’m going to Oaklawn on Monday.

“He went the last quarter today in 22 and three. It was beautiful.” >

The field for the Potrero Grande, which goes as race eight: Sway Away, Rafael Bejarano, 5-2; Amazombie, Mike Smith, 9-5; Mensa Heat, Garrett Gomez, 6-1; Smart Spending, Joel Rosario, 10-1; Roman Threat, Martin Garcia, 7-2; Camp Victory, Joe Talamo, 6-1; Courtside, Antonio Castanon, 10-1; Thunder of Zion, Alex Bisono, 15-1; and Thinking of Girls, Daniel Vergara, 20-1.


Byrama, who seeks her first stakes in the U.S. Saturday when she runs in the Grade III Providencia Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles on turf, worked five furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track Sunday in 1:00.60 under Garrett Gomez, who rides the bay filly in the race.

“She worked great,” trainer Simon Callaghan said. “She’s stretching out, but she relaxed good in her work and she likes to relax early and finish. She’s training great. We’re happy.”

The field for the Providencia: Lady of Shamrock, Mike Smith, 6-5; Island Paradise, David Flores, 12-1; Killer Graces, Rafael Bejarano, 8-1; Byrama, Garrett Gomez, 3-1; Charm the Maker, Joel Rosario, 9-2; Ms Pianist, Martin Pedroza, 30-1; and Indigo River, Joe Talamo, 3-1.


Joe Talamo was both confident and excited about the prospect of winning career race No. 1,000 today. The 22-year-old rider was named on four horses Thursday.

“It came up on me pretty quick,” Talamo said Thursday morning between works. “I never knew I was that close until my mom (Joy) told me about two weeks ago, and then I’m like, ‘Oh, don’t tell me that. I think I’m going to get jinxed.’

“But today and tomorrow and the weekend we’ve got a few live mounts, so hopefully we get lucky.”

Talamo was named on nine horses Saturday and is scheduled to work 11 others that morning, said his agent, Scott McClellan.


Those attending the races on Saturday will be treated to the opening of “Lucky Benito’s, Taqueria,” which will offer fans authentic grilled chicken, carne asada soft tacos, nachos, churros, pretzels and a variety of beers.

“Lucky Benito’s” is located in the East Paddock Gardens, adjacent to “Champions! Gifts & Apparel.”

“We think this is going to be a very popular addition to our overall food service approach,” said Santa Anita Director of Hospitality Randy Fowler. “We expect to see a lot of people coming to the paddock for tacos and a beer. We’re excited to be able to offer all of this on Derby Day.”


Registration for Santa Anita’s annual Santa Anita Derby Day 5K Walk and Run on Santa Anita Derby Day remains open to the public. The Derby Day 5K benefits several charities, including Pasadena-based AbilityFirst, the California Retirement Management Account (CARMA), the Arcadia High School Athletic Boosters Club, the Arcadia Historical Museum and Arcadia Explorer Scouts.

Adults and children are welcome, as there will be divisions for kids up to 12 years of age, an Open Division and a Masters Division for adults 40 and over.

The 5K run begins at 8 a.m. and the 5K walk starts at 8:15 a.m. It is suggested that all participants arrive no later than 7:15 a.m.

“We’re very proud of the way this event has grown over the years,” said Santa Anita’s Director of Community Services and Special Projects Pete Siberell. “We’ll have over 1,000 participants from AbilityFirst and we expect to have more than 6,000 people overall either walking or running.

“This has become synonymous with the Santa Anita Derby and it generates a tremendous amount of goodwill. We’re looking forward to having a great morning and to seeing a lot of new faces.”

Top jockeys Chantal Sutherland and David Flores, avid year-round runners, along with peers Kayla Stra and Frederic Lenclud, will participate in the Derby Day 5K.

The Derby Day 5K provides a varied route for runners and walkers that includes the world-renowned Los Angeles County Arboretum and a glimpse of the Santa Anita stable area. Participants will finish up their final quarter mile on Santa Anita’s training track and depending upon their age and taste, will have access to an expo with booths, a live band, food and a beer garden.

Prospects can enter On line at and via walk-up now through April 5 at Walk With Us, 235 S. Lake Ave. in Pasadena.

Pre-registration and Derby Day T-shirts will be available for pick-up April 6, from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Westfield Santa Anita Mall.

Race day registration will take place at 6:30 a.m. in Santa Anita’s Southwest Parking Lot, which is accessible by taking Huntington Drive to Holly Ave. and entering at Gate 3, or by taking Baldwin Ave. and entering at Gate 8. For additional racing and event information, visit or call (626) 574-RACE.


Santa Anita offers the third of its popular “Free Fridays” tomorrow. General Admission will be free to all Santa Anita attendees, with hot dogs, sodas and beers on sale at $2 each.

“With the Santa Anita Derby on Saturday, this is a great way for us to reach out to a large number of new and casual fans and get the Derby on their radar,” said Santa Anita C.E.O. Mark Verge.

“There’s no question ‘Free Fridays’ drives on-track attendance and helps set the table each weekend. We want people to know we’re going to be more competitive than ever and that we’re going to do everything we can to make their trip to Santa Anita an unforgettable experience every time they come.”

FINISH LINES: California-bred Eclipse Award winner as 2011’s outstanding Older Male Acclamation worked seven furlongs on Santa Anita’s firm turf course Thursday in 1:29 for Don Warren, while Kalookan Queen winner Rumor also worked on turf, going six furlongs in company with 2011 Tokyo City Cup winner Worth Repeating for Richard Mandella. Each was clocked in a bullet 1:12. “I’m looking at the Ophelia Stakes at 6 ½ on the main track April 19 for Rumor,” the Hall of Fame trainer said, “but I’m still shopping for Worth Repeating.” . . . At Hollywood Park Thursday, stakes winners Rail Trip (Ron Ellis), Jeramino (Mike Pender) and Porfido (Eoin Harty) each worked four furlongs on Cushion Track in 48.40, 48.20 and 49.80, respectively . . . Actor John Ortiz, whose credits include Miami Vice, is part owner of My Yammy Heat, 8-1 morning line chance for trainer Barry Abrams in today’s fifth race . . . There were 32 players alive in ShowVivor2 going into Thursday’s races.