Creator made big strides on the Derby trail when winning the April 16 Arkansas Derby. (Photos by Eclipse Sportswire)
Making the Grade, which will run through the 2016 Belmont Stakes, focuses on the winners of the big races, usually from the previous weekend, who could impact the next Triple Crown. We’ll be taking a close look at impressive winners and evaluating their chances to win classic races based upon ability, running style, connections (owner, trainer, jockey) and pedigree.
This week we take a closer look at Creator, winner of the $1-million Arkansas Derby on April 16 at Oaklawn Park.
Gray or Roan Colt
Sire (Father): Tapit
Dam (Mother): Morena, by Privately Held
Owner: WinStar Farm
Breeder: Mt. Brilliant Broodmares (Ky.)
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Kentucky Derby Points: 110 (Ranked No. 6)
The beauty of the Kentucky Derby is that 3-year-olds sometimes just make huge strides at this time of year, as was the case with Creator in his previous three races that culminated with a commanding win in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby on April 16. That unpredictability of 3-year-olds at this time of year combined with a 20-horse field makes the Kentucky Derby both a fantastic betting opportunity and a brainteaser for fans and handicappers. Let’s take a closer look at what we learned about Creator.
Ability: In general, racehorses who take six starts or more to earn a victory don’t develop into superstars. It’s not a hard-and-fast rule by any means — the first race or two frequently serve as learning experiences — but elite runners often show talent early and like to win. Creator, who did not win until his sixth start, looks like an exception.
A $440,000 purchase at the Keeneland September yearling sale in 2014, Creator finished second in four of his first five races and in his only unplaced finish, he was fifth but beaten by only two lengths. He also posted respectable speed figures while racing on grass twice and once on a sloppy track during that string of five races. Creator showed some promise and it looks like his trainer, Steve Asmussen, was trying to figure him out.
Creator put it all together in his third start, dropping 11 ¾ lengths back early and then unleashing a powerful late rally to take command in the stretch and pull away to a 7 ¼-length romp at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 27. That race earned Creator a then-career-best Equibase Speed Figure and his improvement gave Asmussen the confidence to take a shot in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes. Creator rallied to finish third, three lengths behind winner Cupid, in the Rebel but turned the tables on that familiar rival in the Arkansas Derby when he was much the best. His 101 and 103 speed figures, respectively, for the Rebel and Arkansas Derby showed he is continuing to get better and moving in the right direction. He also has a nice foundation with eight career starts, however, he could regress off a new career-best Equibase Speed Figure with only three weeks of rest.
CREATOR WINNING THE ARKANSAS DERBY
Photo courtesy of Coady Photography
Running style: Creator rallied from last to first to win the Arkansas Derby and has been at least 11 lengths back after the first quarter-mile in each of his last three races. He’s a one-run closer who prefers to conserve his energy for the final three-eighths or quarter-mile of a race and try to overhaul his opponents that are running out of gas. If he can avoid traffic trouble when finding his best stride late, which is always a concern with closers in the Derby, Creator figures to be one to keep an eye on deep in the stretch.
Connections: Creator is trained by Steve Asmussen, a finalist this year for the Racing Hall of Fame and second all-time among North American trainers by victories with 7,284 wins through April 18. Asmussen’s runners have earned more than $240.9 million.
Winless with 12 starters in the Kentucky Derby, Asmussen has finished second in the first jewel of the Triple Crown with Nehro in 2011 and third with Curlin in 2007. Curlin won the Preakness in 2007 to give Asmussen his first win in a Triple Crown race and subsequently finished second in the Belmont Stakes. Asmussen won the Preakness again in 2009 with Rachel Alexandra. Asmussen has won five Breeders’ Cup races to date among 190 graded stakes wins.
CREATOR IN THE ARKANSAS DERBY WINNER'S CIRCLE
Creator is raced by WinStar Farm, whose homebred Super Saver won the 2010 Kentucky Derby.
Kenny Troutt and longtime friend and business partner Bill Casner purchased 400-acre Prestonwood Farm in 2000, which marked the start of WinStar Farm. Troutt bought out Casner in 2010 and the farm has grown to 2,400 acres in Versailles, Kentucky. WinStar stands 22 stallions, including Hall of Famer Tiznow, Distorted Humor, More Than Ready and Pioneerof the Nile, who is the sire of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. The farm also stands its classic winners Drosslemeyer and Super Saver.
Drosselmeyer won the 2010 Belmont Stakes and 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic for WinStar, which also bred 2003 dual classic winner and champion Funny Cide. WinStar homebred Bluegrass Cat took second in the 2006 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes, and homebred Well Armed won the 2009 Dubai World Cup.
Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. has been aboard for five of Creator’s eight career starts, including both of his wins. Santana, who took out his jockey’s license in 2009, earned the first Grade 1 win of his career in the Arkansas Derby. Santana’s only previous mount in the Kentucky Derby came in 2014 when he finished 14th aboard Tapiture. Santana was the leading rider at the recently concluded Oaklawn Park meet with 80 wins, 38 more than his nearest rival.
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Pedigree: Creator is by two-time leading sire Tapit, who is expected to have three starters in the 2016 Kentucky Derby. United Arab Emirates Derby winner Lani and Xpressbet.com Fountain of Youth Stakes victor Mohaymen join Creator to make up the Tapit trio.
Tapit’s runners earned $18,307,469 in 2015 to set a new record for progeny earnings in a single season. It was the second straight season that Tapit led the general sires list.
By Pulpit, the 2004 Wood Memorial Stakes winner stood his first season for $15,000 and got off to a sensational beginning with 2008 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner and champion 2-year-old filly Stardom Bound from his first crop. He has continued to excel with champions such as Hansen and Untapable and now stands for $300,000 at Gainesway in Lexington, the highest stud fee in North America.
Tonalist won the 2014 Belmont Stakes to become Tapit’s first winner of a U.S. Triple Crown race. Tapit has six champions among 51 career graded stakes winners from only eight crops of runners 3 years old and older.
Creator’s dam (mother) is three-time Peruvian champion Morena, who finished second in three graded stakes at 1 1/8 miles and third in the 1 1/4-mile, Grade 1 Personal Ensign Stakes. Morena, by Privately Held, was champion 2-year-old filly, 3-year-old filly and older female in Peru, where she won 10 of 15 starts. Creator is Morena’s first starter to date.
Morena is a half-sister (same dam [mother], different sire [father]) to La Querella, a stakes winner at 1 1/16 miles in her native Peru who finished third in a Group 1 race at 1 ¼ miles.
Creator is a really interesting contender for this year’s Kentucky Derby because he’s really getting good at the right time, he’s got the pedigree to relish the distance and he should be doing his best running late in the Kentucky Derby.