Creator came into the Kentucky Derby as the winner of the Arkansas Derby. That put him in esteemed company - Triple Crown winner American Pharaoh won the race in 2015, and Curlin, Afleet Alex, Smarty Jones and Victory Gallop are all modern winners of both the Arkansas Derby and at least one Triple Crown race. Creator has one more chance to join that esteemed group, but his first attempt in the Derby was not a particularly strong one - due to bad luck as much as bad performance. So, will things be different this time around for Creator?
Last race: Creator certainly did not have the race that his connections hoped for - or that people like me who bet on him hoped, either - in the Kentucky Derby. In fact, it was a bit of a nightmare. He endured some very hard contact. He was forced to check to avoid a collision. He just generally couldn't get anything going early on, and it ruined his race. He was at the back of the pack early on, never really found room to run, and didn't have much to give when he found room. He gained five spots late to finish 13th, but that was mostly because he was able to maintain his speed while others were fading. It was a totally and utterly forgettable day for the horse.
Career highlights: Leading into the Derby his reputation was earned by one race - the Arkansas Derby. He ran the first half of the race at the back of the 12-horse field, but when the time came he weaved through traffic like a master, pulled clear, and won by nearly two lengths, It was a dominant performance against a pretty decent field - Suddenbreakingnews, who will likely be the second betting choice in the Belmont, was second in the race. Before that race he had made his stakes debut in the Rebel, finishing a respectable third against a strong field. Prior to that it had taken him six tries to break his maiden, though he had finished second four times so he wasn't a total disaster by any means.
Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr. had been aboard for six of nine career starts, including the last four, but it was time for the change. Along with a change the horse has gotten a big upgrade in riders. Irad Ortiz Jr. will be aboard. He is a top three rider nationally in wins, and he is based in New York so he knows this Belmont track very well. Ortiz should be better able to steer Creator out of early trouble and put him in better position to have a strong race. This is a very positive move for the horse.
Trainer: Steve Asmussen is entering the Racing Hall of Fame later this summer, and I'm sure he'd be happy to do it with his first Belmont win to his credit. His only two Triple Crown race wins have come with legendary horses in the Preakness - Curlin in 2007 and Rachel Alexandra two years later. Creator is not a peer of those horses at this point in his career - needless to say. Asmussen has raced in other jurisdictions more than New York, but with nearly 7,200 race wins to his credit he obviously knows his stuff.
Pedigree: Creator is, like Lani in this race and others in the Derby, a son of red-hot sire Tapit. Tapit is a grandson of Belmont winner A.P. Indy and sired 2014 Belmont winner Tonalist, so the ties to this race run deep, and there is at least a reasonable expectation that Creator will have what it takes, at least from his bloodlines, to handle the grueling distance. Both Creator's dam Morena and damsire Privately Held won at the relatively rare and demanding distance of 1 3/8 miles, so stamina comes from that side as well. I am not particularly concerned about this horse's ability to run the race.
Running style: Like so many in this race, Creator is a deep closer. He has been within two places of last place early in the race in eight of his nine races. He's a one-move horse with power enough to regularly get at least a piece of the action when he avoids trouble. Like so many in this race, though, the biggest concern for him is that as a closer he needs decent early pace to set up the race for him, and it is not at all obvious where that pace is going to come from in this field. That's a concern as he has not shown a big ability to handle adversity and change things up.
Belmont outlook: Bovada has Creator listed as the longest shot in the field at 22/1 - though it doesn't yet have a price for likely entrant Wild About Deb, who will likely be at longer odds. I don't necessarily like how the race sets up for the horse, but I also don't think he is deserving of being the longest shot on the board. If he stays in the range that he is in then there could be some value in betting on him - especially in the lower portion of exotics.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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