04/16/2016 9:13PM

Much-improved Creator upsets Arkansas Derby

Coady Photography
Creator, under Ricardo Santana Jr., goes from last to first in the Arkansas Derby, earning a berth in the Kentucky Derby.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Less than two months ago, about to make the sixth start of his career, Creator was still winless. But over the past seven weeks, the talent at which he had hinted, that caused him to be favored in four of his first six races, finally started coming to the fore.

His progress coincided with his arrival here at Oaklawn Park, and on Saturday, Creator showed just how far he had come in that time by winning the meet’s biggest race, the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby, earning a berth in the May 7 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.

 Creator ($25.20) rallied from last in the 12-horse field under jockey Ricardo Santana Jr., took the lead a furlong out, and held safe Suddenbreakingnews - who closed from 10th -  to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Whitmore, 11th after a half-mile, finished third, another 1 1/2 lengths back, in a race where late runners swept the trifecta.

 Creator thus put a gray son of Tapit in the winner’s circle following the race, but it wasn’t the one heavily favored to be there. Cupid, conqueror of Creator in the Rebel and the 4-5 favorite, folded after prompting a hot pace and wound up 10th.

 In a race worth 170 points overall, and 100 to the winner, the results vaulted Creator, Suddenbreakingnews, and Whitmore into the top 20 on the points list – compiled by Churchill Downs -- that is now finalized after all 34 scoring races have been completed. Cupid is also in the top 20, but his status in the Derby is highly in question following such a poor performance.

 A maximum of 20 can run in the Derby, so the scoreboard watching and defections will be of paramount importance to those on the bubble between now and entry time May 4. Creator is safely in, improving at the right time, and clearly will benefit from the Derby’s 1 1/4 miles after finishing well for third in the 1 1/16-mile Rebel and first in the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby.

 “He’s a horse who’s getting good at the right time,” said Steve Asmussen, who trains Creator for the WinStar Farm of Kenny Troutt. “I loved the way he came home and went through the wire.

 “It’s obvious how much more distance has helped him,” Asmussen said.

 Creator completed 1 1/8 miles on the fast main track in 1:50.14. By comparison, the older horse Effinex covered the same distance in 1:49.00 when winning the Oaklawn Handicap earlier on the card.

 Creator’s cause was aided by a hot early pace set by Gettysburg, who crossed over from the outside post and took the lead into the first turn, setting fractions of 22.81 seconds for the opening quarter-mile, 46.33 for a half, and 1:10.61 for six furlongs. He hung in bravely to finish fifth – a half-length behind fourth-place Dazzling Gem – but Cupid, who was second and just to his outside through the first six furlongs, tired badly and beat just two horses.

 “Empty. He was done at the three-eighths today,” said Martin Garcia, who rode Cupid. “He was too anxious today going to the gate.”

 Creator gives Asmussen his second Derby contender. He also has Gun Runner, who won the Louisiana Derby last month.

Creator won for the first time on Feb. 27 at Oaklawn in a 1 1/16-mile maiden race, just 15 days after he had a tough trip finishing second in a maiden race at Fair Grounds. He came back three weeks later and was a late-running third in the Rebel.

 “He’s done extremely well here,” Asmussen said. “The Rebel was his third race in five weeks at two different racetracks, and the month into this race gave him a little bit of a break.

 “Now he’ll come back in three weeks. Fitness will come into play.”

 Creator was scheduled to fly to Kentucky on Sunday. He will head straight to Churchill Downs, where he will try to continue his upward trajectory in the biggest race in which he’ll ever compete.



DontGivesARats More than 1 year ago
Creator will NOT get the job done. Great call, dimwit
Kenny Black More than 1 year ago
congrats to steve and scott and the whole crew at the asmussen barn well done guys keep on  kicking butt good luck at churchill ,your friend KB 
Tom Gaeta More than 1 year ago
The only horse that has held tough after front end battles is Nyquist.  I think he'll be leading down the stretch at CD and only a tracking horse or deep closer will beat him.  Q. is which one?  Mo Tom, SBN, Destin or creator and maybe Exaggerator.
Brad Ginsburg More than 1 year ago
Winstar sent there rabbit out in the 12 horse to set a hot pace for Creator to close into.  This type stuff use to happen in the Derby before the point system was implemented.
Scott More than 1 year ago
The Arkansas Derby is a toss!  The top 3 crawled home only after the speed completely melted away.  Of the top 3 finishers, Suddenbreakingnews might have the wind to continue grinding into the Exotics in the Derby, but I don't think he's a win candidate.  I think we get enamored with the deep closers and forget to look at the final 1/8th mile time and just focus on the move.  People who are excited by this finish are definitely falling victim to that syndrome.  

Quick thought on Cupid - this was a great race to determine what he was about, because of the outside draw.  I don't love Tapit's for 10F races, but Cupid's performance in the Rebel gave me some hope, because of the toughness he showed after a bad break.  He pushed his way through and then just ran the field off their feet.  Well, he again showed his toughness in the Arkansas when he pushed his way through after a bad break and moved forward to drive the pacesetter.  Big problems - he now has a history of breaking slow which is a killer in a 20 horse field, even though he sat second he certainly wasn't rating and of course, there's still the Tapit as his sire issue.  They should skip the Derby and go to the Preakness.
BillandMarie Hargreaves More than 1 year ago
Of all the 1 1/8 prep races the Arkansas Derby ran the final 1/8th the fastest.
Enzo Lentini More than 1 year ago
Very weak race when the entire top 3 come from far back
Frank More than 1 year ago
Ha - It was one of the best Ark Derby run in years!!

I guess you didnt have the winner which is obviously why you feel that way.
Joe Tim More than 1 year ago
If i notice one trend it is that no horse can hold their speed this year. Just about every major prep is won by a closer. I would expect the derby to be the same. I think if mo tom gets in the race hell offer great value, I also think Destin is looked over by everyone. His last race set a track record and he beat two horses who came out to win major derby preps.
Scott More than 1 year ago
Destin's layoff will certainly be the talk leading up to the Derby, but it's also worth talking about his races...his longest race is 1 1/16th...I can't think of any horse who's won the Derby with this profile.  He's still worth watching during the lead up to see how he likes CD.  Hopefully, they work him 3 or 4 times, so we have a good idea where's he at.  I'm looking elsewhere for my winner, but if he's looking great maybe he could land as a long shot special or exotic special.

I'm going to take a long look at Mor Spirit.  When you said a closer will win, I was thinking you meant a deep closer coming from the clouds.  I think a horse like Mor Spirit will sit 5 to 7 lengths off the speed and grind his way to the front to win when all the Uncle Mo's and Tapit's start backing up.  He will be coming from behind, but not from the clouds, so I'm no sure how you'd rate him.  Obviously, there's a ton of variables left to consider:  how he works leading up to the Race, post draw is huge and of course I think this guy prefers a fast track as opposed to the slop he ran in last time.
john g More than 1 year ago
We can't expect a triple crown winner every year, and this year seems an average bunch of colts, with only 2 or 3 running a triple digit beyer, compared to 8 different colts combining for 16 triple digit beyers last year. Another race where they went fast early and slow late.  
The final time 1:50.14 , seemed to have ranked it 3'rd in 1 1/8 miles races behind the Santa Anita Derby( Exaggerator ) 1:49.66 and Fla. Derby's( Nyquist) 1:49.11. The top 3 -1 1/16 mile races, Holy Bull 1:42.07 ( Mohaymen) and Tampa bay 1:42.82 ( Destin) and the FOY 1:42.84 ( Mohaymen)
Nyquist travels across country and beats the east top colt in Mohaymen, and Exaggerator wins the top prize out west, maybe points to a west coast dominance of the Derby.
Or just maybe in an ordinary crop of 3 yr. old colts running low to mid 90's beyers any colt is capable of stepping up his game enough to win among an average crop. Good luck figuring this year out, but as of now, I'm leaning towards the west coast top three of Nyquist, Exaggerator and Mor Spirit. And, no I don't live out west, they just seem to have the cream of the crop, again.

sgvoak More than 1 year ago
I am from the west coast and to me time does matter and I'm with this. if it goes based on this then nyquist creator and exxagerator will be the exacta box. even showed slop in ny 2 seconds slower and a west coast longshot went to get away from his home speed and got 2nd a head at 80/1.  but if mike smith does set that 22 45  then who does? nyquist and can he hold all the way?idk I hope but idk but speed kills and these 3 are it
Scott More than 1 year ago
The top 2 sires this year for the Derby aren't 10F sires in my opinion.  Tapit is definitely one of the top sires going right now, but his foals are solid up to 9F and no further.  I'm not saying a Tapit can't win this year, but it will be on pure fumes.  Uncle Mo is having a huge year too and doesn't have the history to make a truly definitive statement about his foals, but all evidence suggests that this year's group are pretty good up to 9F's and no further.  

Of the 3 colts from out West that you mentioned, I actually think Mor Spirit is not only the best value, but has the right type of style to win this year.  Additionally, I think his pedigree is more suited to the distance than Nyquist.  If the track is off, then I will have to cover Exaggerator, but I really think a mid pack grinder is the right formula for this year's crop.
alex More than 1 year ago
Top three finishers in the Ark. derby will have no bearing in the Kentucky derby. The real contenders have already shown their hand in the FL. derby and the SA derby You will get 15-1 or better on these colts
Ian GW More than 1 year ago
track favored his style big time. 
Nick Pavletic More than 1 year ago
What?   Effinex pressed the pace and ran off!  No anti-speed bias at Oaklawn yesterday!  What races were you watching?