10/04/2011 2:02PM

Santa Anita: John Johny Jak stepping up in Oak Tree Mile

Benoit & Associates
John Johny Jak (right) wins the Brubaker Handicap at Del Mar.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Officially, John Johny Jak worked seven furlongs in 1:26.60 at Hollywood Park last Saturday. What the time does not reflect is a moment of suspense attached to the workout, the 4-year-old’s last before Saturday’s $150,000 Oak Tree Mile at Santa Anita.

Midway through the workout, a horse from a different stable working in front of John Johny Jak had its exercise disrupted by a slipped saddle. That forced trainer Kristin Mulhall, who was working John Johny Jak, to take evasive action to prevent a collision.

“I finished it,” she said of the workout. “He galloped out really strong.”

Mulhall will be hoping for a less eventful outing in the Grade 2 Oak Tree Mile, John Johny’s Jack’s first start in a graded stakes in his 22nd start. Bought privately in Florida during the summer and owned by Kretz Racing, John Johny Jack started twice at Del Mar, finishing second by a nose in the Wickerr Handicap on July 27 and winning the Brubaker Handicap over 1 1/16 miles on turf Aug. 24.

A win in the Oak Tree Mile on turf could result in a start in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5, although Mulhall said that is not her immediate focus.

“I’m just looking at this race,” she said. “I really like him.”

That opinion makes sense. The Oak Tree Mile is led by the stakes-winning 3-year-old Mr. Commons. Other probable starters are Calimonco, Crown of Thorns, Jeranimo, and Victory Pete.

John Johny Jak will be ridden by Rafael Bejarano, a replacement for Joel Rosario who is at Keeneland on Saturday.

Harrington back to the Cup with Creative Cause

Creative Cause, winner of the Grade 1 Norfolk Stakes last Saturday, will be owner Heinz Steinmann and trainer Mike Harrington’s first runner in the Breeders’ Cup in 13 years when he starts in the Juvenile on Nov. 5.

Buck Trout finished seventh for them in the 1998 Juvenile at Churchill Downs as a 32-1 longshot. Creative Cause is a top contender in this year’s Juvenile.

Creative Cause won the Norfolk Stakes by 3 1/4 lengths over Drill, reversing the one-two finish of the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity over seven furlongs on Del Mar’s Polytrack synthetic surface Sept. 7.

The Norfolk was Creative Cause’s first start around two turns and first start on a dirt surface. The win left Harrington confident as the Breeders’ Cup approaches.

“He had to run a route,” he said. “You don’t know how they’ll handle it. We found out he’d run on the dirt, but we didn’t know that. We took two variables out of the thing.”

Creative Cause, by Giant’s Causeway, has won 3 of 4 and $293,000.

“He’s a very smart horse and an easy horse to train,” said Harrington, 70. “He’s got to be easy to train if I can him train him. It’s getting pretty exciting now.”

Camp Victory has Breeders' Cup options

It may take until the first of November for trainer Mike Mitchell to determine a Breeders’ Cup race for Camp Victory, who starts in Monday’s $100,000 Morvich Stakes at Santa Anita.

The Morvich Stakes is run over about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course, but that is not a guarantee that Mitchell is targeting the five-furlong BC Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5. The BC Sprint and the Dirt Mile also are considerations.

“We’ve got a number of different options we can take, depending on who is going where,” Mitchell said. “The one-turn [Dirt] Mile is what I’d prefer, but I could do the grass sprint.”

One matchup that does not appeal to Mitchell is a race that includes The Factor, the 3-year-old sprinter. Camp Victory was second to The Factor in the Grade 1 Pat O’Brien Stakes at Del Mar on Aug. 28.

“I don’t want to go against him,” Mitchell said.

Camp Victory was claimed for $40,000 by Mitchell on behalf of a partnership in February and has since won twice and finished second three times. He was promoted from second to first after the controversial disqualification of Amazombie in the Grade 3 Los Angeles Handicap at Hollywood Park in May. Camp Victory was later second to Smiling Tiger in the Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap at Hollywood Park.

The Morvich will be Camp Victory’s first start on turf since a nose loss to Regally Ready in the San Simeon Handicap over the same course in April.

Even though the Morvich is run over about 6 1/2 furlongs, Mitchell thinks Camp Victory could be effective in the much shorter BC Turf Sprint over five furlongs. Camp Victory has shown the ability to race near the front and produce a sharp stretch run.

“He might explode in it,” Mitchell said of the BC Turf Sprint. “Distance-wise, it would be the least favorite, but it could be the easiest of the three.”

The Factor will be a heavy favorite against a small field in Saturday’s $250,000 Ancient Title Stakes over six furlongs at Santa Anita.