Haskin's Preakness Report: Cause and Effect

For the first eight months of his career, everything went right for Creative Cause. Is it possible for everything to then go wrong in the next six weeks? Yes, according to a great many experts and anyone else with an opinion on the do’s and don’ts of Triple Crown training.

Trainer Mike Harrington found himself thrust on the Derby scene and out of his comfort zone; the proverbial fish out of water. And how does the big cowboy feel about all the second-guessing?

“They obviously don’t think I know what the hell I’m doing,” he said.

OK, so here’s what happened in a nutshell to create the total metamorphosis of one the most consistent and classy colts in the country. After a near-perfect two opening races this year, in which Creative Cause was a good third in the seven-furlong San Vicente Stakes and a winner over Bodemeister in the San Felipe, Harrington decided to take the blinkers off his colt for the Santa Anita Derby, off a victory no less. The horse was beaten. Then he worked him with cheater blinkers, but kept them off for the Kentucky Derby. Then the horse tore off a chunk of his hoof on the trip to Kentucky and had to be equipped with glue-on shoes. Then he worked. Then he didn’t go to the track for two days. Then the warning flares went up. Something was amiss. The horse reportedly looked terrible on the track galloping, during which he sweated up pretty noticeably. Harrington all of a sudden was under attack from enquiring minds.

“Anything wrong with your horse?”


“How come he didn’t go to the track for two days?”

“We always do that after a work.” The enquiring minds departed, still not satisfied.

Creative Cause was a drenched basket case schooling in the paddock. Few mentioned he was much better the following day. Even fewer mentioned that he often got hot back in California. After all, it was near 90 degrees in Louisville on Derby week.

Then the colt was scheduled to school for a third time, but was a no-show. Then came the rumors from various sources he was going to be scratched. Even the stewards called Harrington and said, "I hear you're going to scratch your horse."

“Not true,” said Harrington. “He couldn’t be doing any better.”  No one believed him. The Derby experience was becoming an annoying test of the trainer’s patience, having to defend his actions and the horse’s well being. It was like taking an old taciturn cowboy and dragging him away from his home in Laramie and dropping him in the middle of Times Square.

Well, Creative Cause ran a darn good race in the Derby, despite a terrible trip, in which he was five to six wide the entire race and still was beaten only three lengths.

But afterward, the cowboy was it again, shipping his horse back to California and then back east to Baltimore three days before the Preakness. Of course, no one liked that move. Harrington explained it was like a person being more comfortable sleeping in his own bed. Still, no one liked it. What else is new?

So, here he is, ready for the second leg of the Triple Crown. No one seems to be mentioning Creative Cause or putting him up there with I’ll Have Another, Bodemeister, and Went the Day Well.

The cowboy couldn’t care less. He wouldn’t be here if he didn’t think he could win.

Sure, Creative Cause could show the effects of the Derby; so could any other horse coming out of the race. Is a plane ride back to California and another to Baltimore 10 days later going to hurt his chances? We would hardly think so.

If you look past all the nonsense and rumors and concentrate strictly on his Derby trip, his previous form and his consistency, and the fact that he’s already beaten I’ll Have Another and Bodemeister, he just may turn out to be the overlay special of the Preakness.

And if he should win, well, of course, Mike Harrington would be a genius. He would blow the smoke off the tips of his six shooters, flip them back into his holster and head back to Laramie. But this time he’d be riding a white horse…well, gray at least.

I’ll Have Another puts on a show

We’ve seen an awful lot of Preakness gallops over the years and honestly cannot recall seeing a better gallop than that of I’ll Have Another on Thursday.

It was a thing of beauty to watch; a textbook gallop – strong, straight, and silent. Strong in that he was again motoring around the track at a near two-minute lick pace. He ran as straight as the proverbial arrow, and didn’t make a sound, just gliding over the surface as smoothly and efficiently as a horse can travel. He lowers his shoulder and just takes off, with great extension to his stride. In other words it was one helluva gallop.

Two other horses who made a terrific impression this morning were Cozzetti, a big eyeful of a horse who has a great presence about him, and Went the Day Well, who we mentioned the other day as having shown little effects from the Derby.

Cozzetti - Photo by Steve Haskin

Went the Day Well - Photo by Steve Haskin

Lava Man - Photo by Steve Haskin

Doug O'Neill at local Boys and Girls Club Photo by Steve Haskin

Doug O'Neill at local Boys and Girls Club Photo by Steve Haskin

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