Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Creator’s Belmont Stakes Victory Helps Position Him For Year-End Honors

Arkansas Derby winner Creator is now in the conversation for a championship, jumping from No. 14 to No. 3 in the NTRA Top Three-Year-Old Poll following his nose victory in the final leg of the Triple Crown, the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (G1) Saturday at Belmont Park. The win was the 14th time that an Oaklawn-raced horse had captured a Classic race since 2004

Nyquist (384 points) and Exaggerator (310) topped the poll, which was based on voting from as many as 50 journalists and broadcasters. Creator had 291 points in the 15th and final poll this year. Nyquist (Kentucky Derby), Exaggerator (Preakness) and Creator split the Triple Crown.

All three also have a Grade 1 victory in a Triple Crown prep race on their 2016 resumes, with Creator’s coming in the $1 million Arkansas Derby April 16 at Oaklawn.

Trained by seven-time Oaklawn champion Steve Asmussen, Creator earned a career-high 99 Beyer Speed Figure in the 1 ½-mile Belmont. The gray son of Tapit was coming off a troubled 13th-place finish in the May 7 Kentucky Derby. He had earned a 96 Beyer for his last-to-first 1 ¼-length victory in the Arkansas Derby, one the country’s most important Triple Crown prep races.

Creator became the fifth Arkansas Derby winner to capture the Belmont, following Temperence Hill in 1980, Victory Gallop in 1998, Afleet Alex in 2005 and American Pharoah in 2015. Like Temperence Hill, Creator broke his maiden at Oaklawn before winning the Arkansas Derby and Belmont.

Summer Bird broke his maiden at Oaklawn in 2009 before finishing third in the Arkansas Derby and winning the Belmont en route to champion 3-year-old male honors. Temperence Hill, Afleet Alex and Triple Crown winner American Pharoah were also named champion 3-year-old male, while American Pharoah,the first horse to sweep the Triple Crown in 37 years was also named Horse of the Year.

Creator arrived Monday at Kentucky’s WinStar Farm, where he will receive a brief freshening. The candidate for the $1.25 million Travers Stakes (G1) Aug. 27 at Saratoga is campaigned by WinStar and celebrity chef Bobby Flay, who purchased an interest in the colt shortly before the Belmont.

Creator also finished third in the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 19 at Oaklawn. He broke his maiden by 7 ¼ lengths in his Feb. 27 local debut.

Power of the Pippin

Two graduates of the $100,000 Pippin Stakes for older fillies and mares Jan. 17 at Oaklawn won stakes races last week.

Runner-up Theogony ($4.80) was an eight-length winner of the $150,000 Rags to Riches Invitational Friday at Belmont Park for trainer Mark Casse. Fourth-place Pippin finisher Cash Control ($6.80) edged stablemate Sweet Acclaim by a head to win the $100,000 Mint Julep Handicap (G3) Saturday at Churchill Downs for Brad Cox, Oaklawn’s fourth-leading trainer this year.

Another Pippin starter, sixth-place finisher Ribbon of Darkness, won the $45,000 Jack Bishop Stakes May 27 at Prairie Meadows for Danny Caldwell, Oaklawn’s leading owner the last three years.

The Pippin was the first of three major local preps for the $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) April 15. Apple Blossom winner Forever Unbridled finished an unlucky second in the $1 million Ogden Phipps (G1) Saturday at Belmont Park.

Finish Lines

Recount, sixth in the $400,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) April 10 at Oaklawn, won the $53,000 Addison Cammack Handicap Saturday at Arlington Park. Recount paid $6. … Battle Girl, who made her first two career starts at Oaklawn, was a front-running 5 ½-length winner of the $65,000 Panthers Stakes for 3-year-old fillies Thursday at Prairie Meadows. The 1-mile Panthers, marked the third consecutive victory for Battle Girl, who was making her stakes debut for trainer Kellyn Gorder and owner WinStar Farm. Battle Girl ($10.40) finished sixth and ninth in two maiden special weights races this winter in Hot Springs. Battle Girl was an Oaklawn workmate of She’s a Bootsy Too, who won her first two career starts at the meeting before finishing fifth in the $200,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) March 12. … Effinex has been assigned top weight of 122 pounds for the $500,000 Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) Saturday at Churchill Downs. A scheduled starter, Effinex won the $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) April 16 at Oaklawn in his last start.

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