In eight career starts Creator has won only twice and just once outside of maiden company. On the road to the Kentucky Derby, though, it's often not about how many races you have won. It's about when you won them. His had been a largely underwhelming career through seven races. He looked nothing like a Derby contender. That eighth race, though, was the Arkansas Derby - one of the small handful of major Kentucky Derby prep races. By winning that race, and doing it pretty impressively against a deep field, he suddenly became a Derby contender - and nothing that came before mattered.
So, can one good race in eight starts become two in nine starts, or did the horse just have one great day in him this spring?
Last race: Creator found his game at just the right time, and he found it in a race that set up perfectly for him. Early fractions in the Arkansas Derby were fast. Like the two horses that finished behind him, Creator had nothing to do with that pace. He was last out of the gate, last in the 12-horse field at the first call, and right at the back in the second call, too. When he started to move after the pace collapsed he showed strong skill and confidence weaving through traffic, he was third entering the stretch, and pulled away to win by daylight. He led a charge from the back with Suddenbreakingnews and Whitmore, who finished second and third, respectively, but on this day he was clearly the best of that group. Now we have to consider whether the impressive effort was a result of good luck or whether the horse is talented enough to replicate the effort.
Prior experience: This horse has had one odd career so far. He made his debut in September at Churchill Downs in a maiden race, finishing second. Then he finished fifth in a maiden race. Then second in three more. Finally he managed a win in his sixth try. It was how he did it that was impressive, though - he won by seven lengths and looked like he could have won by a dozen more if need be. It was amazing - and you have to wonder where that effort had been before and what changed all of a sudden. From there he made the huge leap up to graded stakes company for the rebel. He was last early, made a big, solid move, and wound up third behind Cupid and Whitmore. He ran a deep closing style every time out except for one, and even then he was only mid-pack and well off the lead. You certainly shouldn't look for this horse to be setting the pace in Kentucky. He'll be in what is setting up to be a traffic jam at the back of this closer-heavy field.
Trainer: Steve Asmussen is an all-time legend. Two times the Eclipse Award winner for top trainer. 7,200 wins. Winningest trainer in the country on multiple occasions. He runs a racing machine - he once started horses in 3,002 races in one year, winning 621. That's more wins that Ron Moquett, trainer of fellow Derby entrant Whitmore, has in a career dating back to 1997. Despite the success, though, Asmussen has finished second and third in the Kentucky Derby but has never won it. His only Triple Crown wins have come in the Preakness with two great champions - Curlin in 1997, and Rachel Alexandra two years later. You can be sure that he is very hungry to get this race under his belt, too.
Jockey: Ricardo Santana, Jr. is a reasonably young jockey who doesn't yet have a lot of big race experience to his credit, but that is going to change. He is red hot this spring - he won the riding title at Oaklawn Park with 80 wins, which was 38 better than second place. He has elite talent and is going to get his chances. I always like to see a jockey in the Derby with previous Derby experience because the race is so unique and challenging, but with Santana's talent and obvious chemistry with the horse I'm not nearly as concerned as I could be.
Breeding: Shockingly, Creator is a son of Tapit - that red-hot stud will be represented by three sons and a grandson in the Derby even with the defection of Cupid. He has been the leading sire the last two years and is on track for a threepeat. He doesn't have a Triple Crown winner to his credit yet, but the way he is going it's just a matter of time. Creator's damsire is the surprisingly obscure Privately Held, who has failed to make a real mark either on the track or in the breeding shed.
Odds: Winning at the right time not only got Creator into the Kentucky Derby, but it lowered his odds in the race dramatically. In the final official Kentucky Derby futures pool, which took place weeks before the Arkansas Derby, Creator opened at 30/1 on the morning line but ballooned up to 58/1 three days later. Now that he has the Arkansas Derby win to his credit, though, he has dropped all the way to his current level of +1600 at 5Dimes.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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