06/15/2016 11:56AM

Creator lives up to rookie expectations

Barbara D. Livingston
Belmont Stakes winner Creator sold for $440,000 as a yearling.

The pressure that comes with being a No. 1 draft pick has driven an army of promising athletes into obscurity under the weight of those expectations.

Don’t count Belmont Stakes winner Creator among that group.

The newly minted classic winner was the centerpiece of the 2014 yearling class from breeder Mt. Brilliant Farm, which employs consignors Gainesway and Lane’s End to handle its horses at auction. On an early June night two years ago, representatives from both consignments met in the Mt. Brilliant wine cellar in Lexington, Ky., to divide the crop for the coming season among dinner, drinks, and a big-board-style draft.

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Gainesway had the first pick and hung the placard of a colt by its own cornerstone sire, Tapit, and out of the three-time Peruvian champion Morena. That colt would become Creator.

“He strikes a resemblance to Tapit,” Gainesway sales director Michael Hernon said. “The horse himself had balance, he had size, scope, good leg underneath him. He looked like a two-turn horse, and he was a good horse to be around.”

Creator didn’t always resemble his striking gray sire. As a foal, he was a copper-penny chestnut with a striking blaze and socks on his hind legs.

While many grays start out as chestnuts, Mt. Brilliant Farm owner Greg Goodman said Creator took longer than most for the gray around his eyes and muzzle to become his dominant color. Creator’s chestnut coat was as strong-willed as the young colt himself.

“As a young horse, he always had a mind of his own, but he was never mean,” Goodman said. “If he wanted something, he tried for it. He had spunk, but he was never too hard to handle.”

There were two Tapit yearlings in Mt. Brilliant’s draft class that year, and going strictly by the page, Creator was a mild upset as the top choice.

The other Tapit, a colt later named Travis County, was quickly scooped up by Lane’s End with the second pick. He is a full brother to Grade 3 winner Cassatt and is from the family of champion Dreaming of Anna and leading sire Kitten’s Joy.

The Peruvian-bred Morena’s pedigree was, in comparison, quite obscure by U.S. standards. She was one of the best daughters of Peru’s top sire, Privately Held, hailing from a modest female family, and earned her native country’s champion 2-year-old, 3-year-old, and older female honors in consecutive years. Morena was the star of Peruvian soccer standout Claudio Pizarro’s stable, Haras El Catorce.

Pizarro moved Morena to the U.S. for the second half of her 2009 campaign and placed her in the barn of trainer Michael Matz, with whom she became a Grade 1-placed runner.

Pizarro later decided to sell the mare, and Matz called Goodman, who was already visiting the south Florida area where the trainer was stabled. Goodman went in for 70 percent, business partner Orrin Ingram bought 30 percent, and the pair raced her for one more season, earning a pair of graded placings.

Creator was Morena’s second foal, and he was prepared for the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale at Mt. Brilliant, as all the farm’s yearlings are regardless of which consignor drafts them.

“He never got hurt a day in his life, never had any problems,” Goodman said. “He was sound every day.”

The colt sold to WinStar Farm chief executive Elliot Walden’s Maverick Racing for $440,000 early in the bellwether sale’s prestigious first book.

“We were happy enough; we let him sell,” Goodman said about the price. “I think that’s what we paid for the mare.

“The mare did have that Peruvian side to her that we thought might hold people back from bidding on him as high as we might have thought that she was worth,” Goodman added. “Of course, with young horses, you always think they’re worth more than other people do. If you don’t love your horses, you should find something else to do.”

Later in the sale, second pick Travis County sold to Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum’s Godolphin Racing for $850,000 to top the Mt. Brilliant class by price. He is still seeking his maiden win after three starts.

Gainesway had the first pick again in the Mt. Brilliant draft earlier this month, days before Creator’s Belmont score. Like Eli Manning following his brother Peyton into the National Football League, the first placard hung belonged to Morena’s Street Cry colt. Goodman said fillies out of Morena would be kept, meaning the mare’s 2016 foal by Tiznow will not be among the choices available for next year’s gathering.

Two days after Creator’s nose hit the wire first at Belmont Park, Morena scanned in foal to the blazing-hot young sire Uncle Mo. If the foal comes out a colt, it won’t take Mel Kiper Jr. to forecast the likely favorite to top the 2018 draft board.