02/17/2012 5:35PM

Santa Anita: San Vicente merely a starting point for Creative Cause

Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer Mike Harrington says Sunday's San Vicente is not a must-win race for Creative Cause.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Creative Cause does not have to win his comeback Sunday at Santa Anita. The goal, after all, is 1 1/4 miles in May, rather than a sprint in February.

Trainer Mike Harrington downplays the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes, but the implications are unmistakable. The seven-furlong race is the first start for Creative Cause since a third-place finish Nov. 5 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

The ride starts over Sunday against five rivals in the San Vicente.

“This is a big race, but he doesn’t have to win,” Harrington cautioned. “I’ve said all along, this is a progression. If he wins, fine. I expect him to run well. But I’m just trying to get a race into him.”

Although he has not raced since fall, Creative Cause is ready to fire. Harrington found it interesting when he heard talk that the colt’s recent workouts were less than stellar.

“He’s got two black-letter works going three-quarters of a mile,” Harrington said. “How could he work any better? I am very happy with the way he’s been working.”

Heinz Steinmann owns Creative Cause, winner of the Grade 1 Norfolk at Santa Anita and the Grade 2 Best Pal at Del Mar. While owning or training a single Derby candidate is nice, Harrington and Steinmann have welcomed a second candidate.

Empire Way made his career debut eight days after Creative Cause finished his 2011 campaign in the Breeders’ Cup. Each start by Empire Way has been better than before, and a runner-up finish Feb. 4 in the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis stamped him as genuine.

“With 3-year-olds, what it comes down to is pedigree,” Harrington said. “That’s what makes both these horses legitimate; they’ve got the pedigree to run a mile and a quarter.”

Creative Cause is by Giant’s Causeway and produced by Grade 1 winner Dream of Summer. Empire Way, by Empire Maker, is a full brother to 2011 champion 3-year-old filly Royal Delta.

Soon, things will get sticky regarding the campaign for both colts. Creative Cause has $488,000 in graded earnings and therefore virtually assured a berth in the Kentucky Derby. Empire Way has only $85,000 in graded earnings.

Harrington initially considered running both Creative Cause and Empire Way in Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes on March 10.

“My problem is that Empire Way needs more graded earnings. I can’t run them against each other because if [Creative Cause] outruns [Empire Way], I’m cutting my own throat.”

Pending the San Vicente, Creative Cause is more likely to ship to Oaklawn Park for the Grade 2, $500,000 Rebel Stakes on March 17.

“The Rebel fits his schedule best,” Harrington said.

Harrington may do this despite a speed-favoring Santa Anita track that helps Creative Cause and compromises late-running Empire Way.

“It would make sense to take Empire Way someplace else,” Harrington admitted. “But when I shipped him to Santa Anita he didn’t handle that very well, so I am concerned about shipping him out of town.”

Though Creative Cause is more accomplished than Empire Way, Harrington hedges when asked which is better.

“I guess it depends on your definition of better,” he said. “You’d have to say Creative Cause is better, but by the time the Belmont comes around, it could be a different story.”

Creative Cause matured early.

“He was a big, strong 2-year-old, so he’s not going to get much bigger and stronger,” Harrington said. “So I didn’t expect him to change a lot.”

John Cisneros, Harrington’s assistant trainer and exercise rider, gallops and works Creative Cause. Cisneros said Creative Cause “is much better than last year. He’s wider, more powerful and stronger.”

Creative Cause was scheduled to ship to Santa Anita on Saturday to be schooled in the afternoon; Empire Way also was scheduled to ship over for schooling.

Joel Rosario will ride Creative Cause in the San Vicente, a race in which he is 3-5 on the track’s morning line. His rivals are Smoking G, American Act, Drill, Let’s Get Crackin, and Captain Obvious.

Meanwhile, Harrington sees the road ahead.

“Obviously we’d like to wind up in the Derby, but at this point in time I’m just trying to take everything one step at a time.

“It’s going to be an interesting ride; there is no doubt about that.”

San Vicente S. (G2), Post Time: 3:36 ET Sunday

Purse: $150,000; 7 furlongs





ML Odds


Let's Get Crackin

C. Dollase

V. Espinoza



Creative Cause

M. Harrington

J. Rosario




B. Baffert

M. Garcia



Smoking G

P. Miller

C. Nakatani



American Act

J. Carava

M. Pedroza



Captain Obvious

B. Cecil

M. Gutierrez