11/01/2011 1:04PM

Breeders' Cup: Creative Cause rewards owner's risk

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LEXINGTON, Ky. − Whether he wins or loses in Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Creative Cause already has made owner Heinz Steinmann’s gamble pay off.

Steinmann, 80, bought Creative Cause privately in March, sight unseen, after consignor Becky Thomas withdrew him from the Fasig-Tipton March select juvenile sale. Steinmann gave $200,000 for the colt. Since then, Creative Cause has become a Grade 1 winner, won three of his four starts, earned $323,000, and given Steinmann reason to think he’ll become a good stallion prospect.

“That’s really what our objective was,” Steinmann said. “I’m cautious about the Breeders’ Cup, but he definitely has a chance to win or come in second or third. He’s a heck of a horse. He’ll already make a good stallion out here.”

Creative Cause, at 7-2, is the morning line’s second favorite for the Juvenile. That’s a long way from where he was in March, when Thomas had to back off his preparation for the important Fasig-Tipton March select sale. Thomas and Dennis Narlinger had paid $135,000 for Creative Cause at the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale, gambling he’d turn a profit at this year’s big 2-year-old sales.

“He was training very well up to the Fasig-Tipton sale, and then his suspensory started bugging him just a little,” Thomas said. “I had to back off and couldn’t breeze him.”

When Thomas arrived at the Fasig-Tipton March sale to Palm Meadows, Creative Cause wasn’t in the consignment, but he wasn’t far from her mind when Thomas bumped into Steinmann’s longtime trainer, Mike Harrington.

Harrington’s brief was specific. Steinmann wanted three colts who looked like good two-turn prospects and future stallion prospects for California. In short, he wanted another horse like Swiss Yodeler. A Grade 1-winning 2-year-old, Swiss Yodeler didn’t make it into the Breeders’ Cup but went on to become one of California’s leading sires for Steinmann, who raced many of the horse’s foals.

“Swiss Yodeler is going to be 19, and he’s slowing up a little bit,” Steinmann said. “We’ve had a lot of fun with him and bred some nice horses. I figured we’d better get looking for another Swiss Yodeler, but one that would go a little farther.”

At the Fasig-Tipton sale, Thomas told Harrington she didn’t have anything on the grounds that fit the bill. But when Harrington asked whether she had any prospects back at her training center in Ocala, Fla., Thomas immediately thought of several, including Creative Cause. A Giant’s Causeway colt, he instantly appealed to Harrington, thanks to his pedigree. Creative Cause is out of California-bred millionaire Dream of Summer, the 2005 Apple Blossom winner who also won or placed in nine California stakes, including seconds in back-to-back Santa Margarita Handicaps in 2005 and 2006.

Harrington called Steinmann from Florida and told him, “Heinz, you want this horse.”

“I do?” Steinmann said. And then he told Harrington to go for it.

“So Mike told me, ‘Put him on the plane,’ ” Thomas said. “I said, ‘What do you mean? I don’t want to do that.’ It kind of freaked me out. I said, ‘I need to go home and train him.’ He said, ‘Becky, if you like him, put him on the plane.’ But I wanted to give the horse enough time and know that he was all right. That’s a lot of pressure. It was scary, but he’s been brilliant.”

When she got back to Ocala, Thomas put some more training into Creative Cause to make sure he was still doing well and sent Harrington a photo from her cellphone. Harrington’s interest hadn’t flagged.

“I kept telling her to put him on a plane, and she kept saying, ‘Well, I want to train him a little,’” Harrington said with a laugh. “Some people that knew me were getting pretty nervous. They said, ‘Something’s wrong with that horse.’ I said, ‘No, she just wants to make sure there isn’t anything wrong with him.’ Finally, she put him on the third plane, and we got him.”

Creative Cause arrived at California’s Ontario airport in late March and shipped to Hollywood Park.

“And when I saw him, I loved him,” Harrington said. “He’s a real high-energy, good-feeling horse, and a very good mover.

“There are only one or two people I would do that with, and Becky is one of them,” he said. “This horse was OK in my book, so I just bought him. I trusted Becky completely. I asked her if she thought I’d like the horse, and she said, ‘Yes.’ If he’d have been bad, I’m sure she wouldn’t have told me that. She had bought this horse out of a yearling sale and vetted him then; if he hadn’t vetted, she wouldn’t have bought him.

“Mr. Steinmann told me before I went to the sale, ‘Just use your instinct,’ Harrington said. “And my instinct told me exactly what turned out to be true, that this was a good horse.”

“One thing about Mike Harrington, he has a great eye for a horse,” Steinmann said. “I think it wasn’t until Creative Cause ran in the Best Pal that he told me, ‘You know, I bought that horse without looking at him.’ I said, ‘What?’ But it didn’t matter.”

In an era when many buyers attend sales with advisors, view horses repeatedly, and request veterinary tests before a sale, Thomas still shakes her head over Creative Cause’s unusual sale to Steinmann sight unseen.

“I’ve never heard of anyone doing this, and I’ve never experienced it,” said Thomas, who has been in the horse business for almost 30 years. “It was weird, but it was awesome. That was a lot of faith and trust they had.”