Trainer Mike Harrington, who turns 70 on April 5, will send out both Creative Cause and Empire Way in today’s San Felipe Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita. The key prep race for the Santa Anita Derby (G1) on April 7, the San Felipe is also a steppingstone to the ultimate goal: the Kentucky Derby (G1) on May 5.
Both runners are owned by Heinz Steinmann and enter the San Felipe off of losses. Creative Cause most recently finished third in the San Vicente Stakes (G2) in his seasonal debut. Empire Way finished second in the Robert Lewis Stakes (G2) in his last appearance.
“Both horses are doing very well,” Harrington said. “I would have preferred to run them in separate races, but it’s all about the timing (to reach the Kentucky Derby). The San Felipe was in my original plan for Creative Cause.
“But Empire Way developed and it’s been longer since he ran, and even if I had run him next week (March 17 in the Rebel at Oaklawn Park), then it would have been only three weeks to the Santa Anita Derby, so the timing is really kind of all screwed up from my standpoint,” he added.
Creative Cause already has $506,000 in graded earnings, more than enough to qualify him with a berth in the Kentucky Derby. The son of Giant’s Causeway won last year’s Norfolk Stakes (G1) and finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) behind Hansen and Union Rags.
Empire Way, on the other hand, has only $85,000 in graded earnings. The Derby field is limited to 20 starters, based on graded earnings.
“Empire Way needs graded earnings and that’s the reason I didn’t want to run them both together, but I’m hoping that Empire Way gets enough out of this race to be close (to qualifying in earnings to make the Run for the Roses),” Harrington said.
“If he doesn’t, then I’ve got to go to the Louisiana Derby, which is a million dollar race (at the Fair Grounds on April 1), or the Sunland Derby, which is $800,000 (a Grade 3 in New Mexico on March 25),” he added. “That might be (running) back too soon, but after the San Felipe, I’ve got to decide where the hell I’m going. If I need more (graded) earnings for Empire Way after Saturday, I could run him back in the Santa Anita Derby and hope to get a little piece of that, and then he’d have enough. Ideally, I’d like to run at home before going to Kentucky, if we make it.”
Santa Anita Publicity contributed to this report.