04/08/2012 4:54PM

2012 Kentucky Derby: Liaison may join I'll Have Another, Creative Cause in Louisville

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Benoit & Associates
I'll Have Another (left), who earned a 94 Beyer Speed Figure, heads the race to the wire in the Santa Anita Derby.

ARCADIA, Calif. -  As many as three runners from Saturday’s $750,000 Santa Anita Derby are candidates for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 5.

As expected, I’ll Have Another and Creative Cause, the first two finishers who were separated by a nose at the wire, are Kentucky-bound.

Trainer Bob Baffert still has Kentucky Derby hopes for Liaison, who finished sixth, but has sufficient graded stakes earnings to be assured a spot in the field. The Kentucky Derby field is determined by graded stakes earnings, if the race draws more than 20 entrants.

I’ll Have Another entered the Santa Anita Derby outside of the top 20, with $151,000 in graded stakes earnings. He earned $450,000 for the win on Saturday and is guaranteed a spot in the race. He was awarded a 94 Beyer Speed Figure.

Sunday morning, trainer Doug O’Neill said that I’ll Have Another recovered quickly from the Santa Anita Derby, the colt’s third win in five career starts for owners Paul and Zillah Reddam. I’ll Have Another earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 94.

“His legs are ice cold,” O’Neill said. “He jogged 100 percent sound.

That’s a good way to start the day, when you see that.”

O’Neill said I’ll Have Another’s race did nothing to interrupt the colt’s appetite.

“The only thing that would be a concern is if he left any grain,” O’Neill said. “He eats like me.”

I’ll Have Another was ridden by Mario Gutierrez, a 25-year-old native of Mexico. Gutierrez had I’ll Have Another close to the pace throughout and fought through the stretch with Creative Cause to prevail in the race over 1 1/8 miles.

The result of the Santa Anita Derby proved the form of the track’s two major prep races. I’ll Have Another won the Grade 2 Robert Lewis Stakes in a 43-1 upset in February. Creative Cause won the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes in March.

Creative Cause, ridden by Joel Rosario, was as far back as sixth in the first half-mile, saved ground for much of the race, and finished a half-length in front of the third-place finisher, the 42-1 pacesetter Blueskiesnrainbow.

“I think it was probably the best race he’s run,” trainer Mike Harrington said of Creative Cause.  “Joel said if he’d been outside, he could have won,” he said.

Harrington said that he would “probably” start Creative Cause without blinkers in the Kentucky Derby. The colt did not wear them in the Santa Anita Derby, for the first time in his eight-race career.

Creative Cause will stay in California until April 28. The colt will have his last major workout at Harrington’s Hollywood Park base before traveling to Kentucky, and will have a minor workout in the days before the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, the trainer said.

Liaison was always toward the back of the field and finished 9 1/4 lengths behind I’ll Have Another as a 6-1 shot. The winner of the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park last December, Liaison had an unsuccessful winter-spring meeting at Santa Anita.

The colt unseated jockey Rafael Bejarano after clipping heels in the Robert Lewis Stakes and finished fourth in the San Felipe Stakes.

“He came back like he didn’t run,” Baffert said. “He never liked this track. He’s had terrible trips.”

Baffert said that Liaison will ship to Churchill Downs but must train well to start in the Kentucky Derby.

“I’ll take him there and train him,” Baffert said. “I hope to see a real improvement.”