Baffert has three in Santa Anita Derby
Creative Cause gets a chance to solidify his status as the West's leading Kentucky Derby candidate when he runs as the 6-5 early favorite in the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby.
The gray colt drew the No. 1 post Wednesday in the field of 10 for the 1-1/8-mile race Saturday at Santa Anita.
Creative Cause has four victories in seven career starts, including the San Felipe Stakes last month. He never has finished worse than third, and even then he never has been more than a length behind at the finish line.
''Good horses overcome adversity, and he's had some," trainer Mike Harrington said. "But I guess he likes to run. Horses that like to run, they perform every time.''
Trainer Bob Baffert, recovering from a heart attack suffered last week in Dubai, entered three horses in an attempt to win his seventh Santa Anita Derby and third in the last four years. He saddled 13-1 shot Midnight Interlude to victory last year.
Baffert returned from Dubai on a 16-hour flight Tuesday and was briefly at the track for training Wednesday before leaving early to rest.
''He's got to slow down a little bit,'' said Arnold Zetcher, who owns Liaison with his wife. ''We're going to try to make sure that he does make a few changes, his diet and a few other things. I think for the most part he'll still be Bob.''
Liaison appears to be Baffert's best chance at 8-1 odds. The colt, which drew the No. 2 post, is 0 for 2 this year. He was fourth in the San Felipe Stakes. Then Liaison clipped heels with another horse in the Robert Lewis Stakes, and jockey Rafael Bejarano fell off.
''With more distance, we think he's going to be stronger. We've said that forever,'' said Zetcher, who teamed with Baffert to win last year's race.
''We could save Santa Anita a lot of money (by winning again). They already have the silks up on the wall.''
Baffert's other two entries are long shots.
At 12-1, Paynter is being asked to take a big step coming off a 4-1/4-length win in his career debut. Blueskiesnrainbows, a 20-1 shot, lacks the credentials of Baffert's other colts but has a pair of victories in his young career. He could have been claimed for $30,000 in December.
I'll Have Another was made the 5-2 second choice coming off his 43-1 upset in the Robert Lewis Stakes.
Joining Blueskiesnrainbows as the longest shot in the field at 20-1 is Brother Francis, who is winless in four career starts although he was a close third in the CashCall Futurity in December and second in the Hollywood Prevue in November.
Harrington plans to run Creative Cause without blinkers, which limit the field of vision, for the first time.
''Never been real focused down the stretch,'' the trainer said. ''Even the Breeders' Cup, he was kind of wandering around at the end of it, and I don't know whether that's going to make a difference, but now is the time to find out. I don't want to wait until the Kentucky Derby and then try it.''
Creative Cause was third behind Hansen and Union Rags in the BC Juvenile at Churchill Downs in November.
''I certainly wasn't disappointed,'' Harrington said. ''Everybody talks about the first two and kind of forgot about him, which is fine. But he only got beat a length, and I didn't think he maybe got the best trip.''
At 71, Harrington has never had a horse in the Kentucky Derby. If Creative Cause stays healthy and makes it to the starting gate on the first Saturday in May, he thinks his colt has an advantage having run over the Churchill Downs dirt.
''The Kentucky Derby is a circus, and my horse, although he can get a little bit hot and could be a little bit nervous, I was very pleased with the way he handled the Breeders' Cup,'' Harrington said. ''I've schooled him several times, and he was good in the paddock. He was good in the post parade that day, maybe got a little rattled in the gate. That's going to be the problem with the Derby, when you got 20 horses getting in the gate, they're all going to get rattled at some point in time, but I think he'll handle it as well as any of them.''
The field in post position order with jockeys and odds: Creative Cause, Joel Rosario, 6-5; Liaison, Rafael Bejarano, 8-1; Holy Candy, Alonso Quinonez, 8-1; I'll Have Another, Mario Gutierrez, 5-2; Longview Drive, Russell Baze, 12-1; Paynter, Mario Garcia, 12-1; Senor Rain, Eswan Flores, 15-1; Midnight Transfer, Mike Smith, 10-1; Blueskiesnrainbows, Joe Talamo, 20-1; and Brother Francis, Garrett Gomez, 20-1.