We don’t live in a carefree world where making a decision with gobs of money involved is of little concern. Wouldn’t it be a dream come true to authorize an acquaintance to buy at auction a never-raced thoroughbred you had never seen?
Heinz Steinmann had checked the lineage of a gray thoroughbred he thought might just give him some fun at the races . The lineage was impressive. But he had never seen the gray, never been close enough to him to be able to judge his character. Or see if he had a competitive fire in his wide-set eyes.
A friend told him that same gray colt would be a prize worth plucking. Steinmann trusted the judgment of his auction-going buddy and gave his approval to his friend to bid on Creative Cause.
When Steinmann was told of a successful bid of $200,000 for the son of Giant’s Causeway and Dream of Summer, he was already telling trainer Mike Harrington to plan a schedule that could get his new purchase to the 2012 Kentucky Derby.
Giant’s Causeway had a very abbreviated racing career. But he has Secretariat in his bloodlines. Dream of Summer was a multiple winner during her three-year racing career.
Creative Cause is a California colt. He ran five times as a two-year-old in 2011. Harrington had the gray on a time-tested schedule that just might get him to this year’s Kentucky Derby.
His debut was at Hollywood Park where he spanked the small field in a six-furlong maiden special weight race. For his next on-track experience, Harrington sent him to the Grade II Best Pal Stakes at 6 1/2-furlongs at Del Mar near San Diego. Del Mar rightfully sells itself as “an afternoon delight where the ocean meets the thoroughbreds. Where racing and the weather treat your senses with care.”
Whatever the reasons — oceanside beach, springlike temperatures, or pastel-colored mountains — Creative Cause won again.
Mid-race trouble was alongside jockey Rafael Bejarno during Creative Cause’s next try. The leggy gray was bumped and couldn’t recover well enough from his first in-race problems with traffic to win. He was third.
There was time for two more tries in 2011.
Jockey Joe Rosario replaced Bejarno for the last races of 2011.
Moved ahead to a mile and one sixteenth, the Creative Cause-Rosario combination gave owner Steinmann reason to celebrate their win in the Grade I Norfolk Stakes at Santa Anita.
Santa Anita Race Course in Arcadia just might have been the spot mentioned in a lyric to a patriotic song that speaks of “the purple mountains majesty”. It is a place with royal palms reaching skyward, infield waterways, the tingly smell of hundred dollar bills, and some of the highest quality racing in the country.
Steinmann couldn’t smile the wide smile of a man who bought an unseen thoroughbred for $200,000. His student had done all his racing in California on the synthetic surface at Del Mar and Hollywood Park and the recently returned dirt surface of Santa Anita.
Churchill Downs in Kentucky doesn’t have a synthetic surface. The Kentucky Derby may be contested in front of billionaires and millionaires and thousandaires, but it is run on old-fashioned dirt. And Creative Cause had only his races at Santa Anita on dirt when his record showed three wins in four tries.
That scenario changed when the final race of last year was the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile held on the manicured dirt surface at Churchill Downs.
It would be the first venture outside of sunny California for Creative Cause. And it would be his first try against horses outside California. His fifth race of last year was the much-anticipated Breeders’ Cup Juvenile where he would see unbeatens and high echelon competition from other parts of the country and world.
Union Rags was bringing his undefeated credentials to Louisville. The White Whirlwind — Hansen — was there.
A win for Creative Cause would bring Two-Year-Old Horse of the Year honors. A loss would be dissected and evaluated by many meticulous eyes.
Hansen rushed out to an early lead. And he held it despite a bold bid from the late-running Union Rags, who ran an angled course that missed catching Hansen by only a head. The still-learning gray was third.
Creative Cause was 3-for-5 for the year. He had two graded stakes wins and had earned enough money to qualify for the 2012 Kentucky Derby.
After the usual winter rest given most young thoroughbreds, Creative Cause came out for his three-year-old campaign in February. It was back to California. The Grade II San Vicente Stakes at visually splendid Santa Anita. His initial 2012 stop on the trail to Kentucky produced another third place.
Rosario had the willing gray wide — very wide — and in third place on the final turn coming into the stretch. Even though he was gaining inches with every stride, Creative Cause fell short by a little over a length to the winner, a consistent bay named Drill.
Just last weekend, the bold gray brought many more backers to his corner of California when he came five-wide around the final bend and showed plenty of staying power when he ran down Bodemeister in the stretch to win the Grade II San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita.
Left before the Kentucky Derby is the Santa Anita Derby. If a creditable effort is given and no injury comes from the planned last race before Louisville and The Derby, it will be off to see how much Hansen and Union Rags have improved.
Owner Steinmann wants to be in the running for the roses with his $200,000 acquisition, whose attributes could only be told to him because he had never seen the young horse when he bought him.