11/22/2011 1:41PM

Hollywood Park: Prevue start of something big for Empire Way

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Seven furlongs is three furlongs short of the spring goal, yet it is an ideal launch distance for Kentucky Derby prospects trained by Mike Harrington and owned by Heinz Steinmann.

Empire Way races seven furlongs Thursday in the $100,000 Prevue at Hollywood Park, where a $62,889 pick six carryover is at stake. Creative Cause will return in a seven-furlong race in February at Santa Anita as Harrington points both 2-year-old colts toward ambitious objectives.

Creative Cause already stamped his ticket to the classics. Third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and currently the top Derby prospect in California, Creative Cause will make his first start as a 3-year-old Feb. 19 in the Grade 2, seven-furlong San Vicente.

“I’m figuring three preps,” Harrington said. His fourth start of 2012 would be the Kentucky Derby.

Meanwhile, the plan for Empire Way is short term – the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity on Dec. 17 at Hollywood Park. A full brother to BC Ladies’ Classic winner Royal Delta, Empire Way won his debut Nov. 13 at Hollywood with a 65 Beyer after racing 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:17.93. It was not fast, and Harrington is not worried.

“I don’t think the race took too much out of him,” Harrington said. “I think he needs another race before I run him a mile and a sixteenth.”

If he runs well Thursday in the Grade 3, seven-furlong Hollywood Prevue, Empire Way will make the third start of his career in the $750,000 CashCall Futurity. At 1 1/16 miles, the Futurity distance should be ideal for the colt, who is by Empire Maker.

“I toyed with the idea of running [Empire Way] long first time out, but that’s not my style,” Harrington said.

The colt sprinted instead, rallied from last, and won geared down more impressively than the half-length margin or final time indicates.

Empire Way and seven other Prevue starters are playing catch-up behind Creative Cause, whose 3-for-5 juvenile campaign includes wins in the Grade 1 Norfolk and Grade 2 Best Pal, and a solid third in the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs.

Since returning from Kentucky, Creative Cause has merely been walking.

“He’ll go back into training on Dec. 6,” Harrington said.

The colt’s tentative three-race winter campaign at Santa Anita includes the San Vicente on Feb. 19, Grade 2 San Felipe at 1 1/16 miles on March 10, and Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby at 1 1/8 miles on April 7.

By then, Harrington and Steinmann could have two Derby hopefuls if Empire Way develops. He will get his chance to do just in a Prevue that suits his closing style.

“There is all kinds of speed in there,” Harrington noted.

Perfect.

Empire Way is a closer who will be ridden again by Joel Rosario. The main front-runners are Sweet Swap, Hodge, and So Brilliant.

So Brilliant, trained by Bob Baffert, is the horse to beat in the Prevue. He won his sprint debut at odds-on Oct. 22 at Santa Anita, earning a 76 Beyer. A son of Medaglia d’Oro, he has worked well since, and is comfortably drawn in post 8 under Martin Garcia.

Galex ran second in his most recent start Oct. 10 in the Jack Goodman at Santa Anita, finishing 5 1/4 lengths behind subsequent BC Juvenile Sprint winner Secret Circle. Galex, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, will be ridden Rafael Bejarano.

Other entrants include maiden Brother Francis, Sheer Talent and Muchos Besos. First post Thursday, Thanksgiving, is early, at 11 a.m. The pick-six sequence begins in race 3 at about 12 noon.