Many expected a grey son of Tapit to come out on top in Saturday’s GI Arkansas Derby–just not this one. While odds-on choice and GII Rebel S. winner Cupid (Tapit) could only manage a 10th-place finish after a rough start and pace-pressing trip, WinStar Farm’s 11-1 Creator (Tapit) powered home impressively to post a 1 1/4-length last-to-first victory and stamp his ticket to the GI Kentucky Derby in three weeks. Fellow closers Suddenbreakingnews (Mineshaft) and Whitmore (Pleasantly Perfect) rounded out the exacta and trifecta, respectively.
“[The meet’s leading rider] Ricardo [Santana Jr.] has a ton of confidence in the horse and I’m glad to see him rewarded for how much he believed in the horse,” said trainer Steve Asmussen, who earned his seventh Oaklawn training title in 2016 and who also won the Arkansas Derby in 2002 with Private Emblem and in 2007 with Curlin. “I can’t say enough about the job that [assistant] Darren Fleming and [exercise rider] Abel Flores have done with this horse here at Oaklawn. His race [when third] in the Rebel was good and we felt like he came out of it good. He had a little break and came out for the Arkansas Derby training great. I am very proud of the outcome today.”
Creator was an eye-catching runner-up from far out of it when debuted on the Churchill grass last September, but took a while to put it all together after that. Fifth on the Keeneland sod the following month, he’d complete the back half of exactas in each of his next three outings on dirt–in the Churchill slop Nov. 28, and at Fair Grounds Dec. 31 and Feb. 12. Shipped to Oaklawn for a change in scenery, the light immediately came on for the grey, and he romped home a 7 1/2-length winner going a sixteenth shorter Feb. 27. He showed good late interest in the Mar. 19 Rebel, but was left with too much to do behind pacesetting Cupid and Whitmore.
With fellow WinStar colorbearer Gettysburg ridden hard to make the lead from a high draw, Creator was allowed to settle into an easy beat and drop far back in last. Cupid tried to ratchet up the pressure on the leader after a half in :46.33, but the late-running types started creeping closer and the whip soon came out on the favorite. Tipping wide to find a seam into the straight as Gettysburg hung tough, Creator brushed a bit with Whitmore to his outside, but gobbled up ground to pull clear and hold safe the late bid of GIII Southwest S. winner Suddenbreakingnews.
“First of all thank God and thanks to the owner and the trainer,” said the winning pilot. “This is a really nice horse. The first time he ran here and broke his maiden, he ran really good. He had a really good trip, but I had to go wide. He made a nice run in the end. Last time it was 14 horses, today it was 12 horses. Steve told me to be patient, be patient, because you’re going to have a lot of horses. It worked out worked out really good. I hope I have the same trip in the Kentucky Derby.”
The winner’s dam hit the board in five U.S. graded stakes, including a third in the 2009 GI Personal Ensign S., for Greg Goodman’s Mount Brilliant Stable. She produced a Lemon Drop Kid colt who sold for $100,000 at Keeneland September last year, and a Street Cry (Ire) colt in 2015. She was bred back to WinStar stallion Tiznow last term.
Creator was the first horse WinStar has ever sent to Hall of Fame inductee Asmussen. They have since sent two more.
“Steve has done a really good job with him,” said WinStar President and CEO Elliott Walden, who trained 1998 Arkansas Derby winner Victory Gallop. “Some of the Tapits can be very high strung. We just felt that Steve has done real well, and in the Midwest particularly, with bringing them along without putting them up against the toughest maiden races at Saratoga.”
As for the prospects of Creator providing Kenny Troutt’s operation with its second Derby trophy, Walden remarked, “I love his style. I love the way he’s been brought along. I think based on today’s performance that he would have a very good chance.”
Saturday, Oaklawn Park
ARKANSAS DERBY-GI, $1,000,000, OP, 4-16, 3yo, 1 1/8m, 1:50.14, ft.
1–#@&CREATOR, 118, c, 3, by Tapit
1st Dam: Morena (Per) (Ch. 2yo & 3yo Filly & Ch. Older
Mare-Per, MGSW & G1SP-Per, GISP-US, $270,699),
by Privately Held
2nd Dam: Charytin (Per), by Summing
3rd Dam: Crownit (Fr), by King of Macedon (Ire)
($440,000 Ylg ’14 KEESEP). O-WinStar Farm LLC; B-Mt. Brilliant
Broodmares I LLC (KY); T-Steven M. Asmussen; J-Ricardo
Santana, Jr. $600,000. Lifetime Record: 8-2-4-1, $768,320.
Werk Nick Rating: A. Click for eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.2–Suddenbreakingnews, 122, g, 3, Mineshaft–Uchitel, by Afleet Alex. ($72,000 Ylg ’14 KEESEP). O-Samuel F. Henderson;
B-Branch Equine, LLC (KY); T-Donnie K. Von Hemel. $200,000.3–Whitmore, 118, g, 3, Pleasantly Perfect–Melody’s Spirit, by
Scat Daddy. O-Robert LaPenta, Harry Rosenblum & Southern
Springs Stables; B-John Liviakis (KY); T-Ron Moquett. $100,000.Margins: 1 1/4, 1HF, 2. Odds: 11.60, 5.40, 5.90.
Also Ran: Dazzling Gem, Gettysburg, Discreetness, Cutacorner, Gray Sky, American Pioneer, Cupid, Unbridled Outlaw, Luna de Loco. Click for the Equibase.com chart, the TJCIS.com PPs or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree. VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.