ARCADIA, Calif. — 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 Saturday's 11⁄8-mile race at Santa Anita.
Creative Cause has four wins in seven career starts, including the San Felipe Stakes last month. He's never finished worse than third and even then he's never been more than a length behind at the finish line.
"Good horses overcome adversity and he's had some, but I guess he likes to run," trainer Mike Harrington said, "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 41/4-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.
Harrington plans to run Creative Cause without blinkers that restrict eyesight 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."