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Trained by Doug O'Neill, I'll Have Another won the Lewis on Feb. 4 after returning from a five-month layoff.
I'll Have Another fell through the cracks in the sales ring, going for $35,000. He was a 43-1 shot before winning the Robert Lewis Stakes in February.
The colt with the catchy name won't be overlooked any longer after winning the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby by a nose Saturday and positioning himself as one of the early favorites for the Kentucky Derby next month.
"It's just kind of sinking in right now," owner Paul Reddam said. "These things don't happen too often so I just want to savor it."
I'll Have Another edged 9-10 favorite Creative Cause in his return from a two-month layoff after winning the Lewis at Santa Anita. Sent off at 4-1 odds, I'll Have Another ran 1 1-8 miles in 1:47.88 under Mario Gutierrez in front of 33,166 fans in the West's leading prep for the Kentucky Derby.
"It's indescribable," said Gutierrez, a 25-year-old from Mexico who previously rode in Vancouver, British Columbia. "I never expected this."
I'll Have Another paid $10.20, $4.20 and $3.60. Creative Cause returned $2.60 and $2.40, while Blueskiesnrainbows paid $9.60 to show. The top three horses came charging down the stretch together in the most exciting of the day's three Derby preps around the country.
Todd Pletcher-trained Gemologist won the $1 million Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, and Done Talking took the $500,000 Illinois Derby at Hawthorne.
At Santa Anita, Blueskiesnrainbows was a half-length back in third for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who was trying to win his record seventh Santa Anita Derby. His other entries, Paynter and Liaison, were fourth and sixth, respectively in the nine-horse field.
Liaison could make the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field, but Blueskiesnrainbows and Paynter don't have enough graded stakes earnings.
"Liaison never got untracked," Baffert said. "(Jockey Rafael) Bejarano said he never really felt comfortable stuck on the inside the whole way."
Baffert had a heart attack in Dubai nearly two weeks ago. The 59-year-old trainer was in the paddock before the race, but the 80-degree heat was too much and he watched the race from the track's restaurant.
"I was being very relaxed," he said. "When they turned for home, I was going like, 'Come on boy, come on boy.' I couldn't give it the full cheer. I figured, you know what, he's not going to hear me from here. I'm just happy to be here."
Baffert's Kentucky Derby picture figures to come into focus after next weekend's round of preps. He'll send Midnight Crooner in the Blue Grass at Keeneland and Secret Circle in the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park.
Brother Francis was fifth, followed by Liaison, Midnight Transfer, Senor Rain and Longview Drive.
Trained by Doug O'Neill, I'll Have Another won the Lewis on Feb. 4 after returning from a five-month layoff. He was then given two months off to prepare for Saturday's race. He'll have just under a month to get ready for the May 5 Kentucky Derby.
"We're all going to be focused on the next big challenge," O'Neill said. "He's as good a 3-year-old as I've ever had."
Creative Cause, who broke from the rail under Joel Rosario, went between horses in mid-stretch and fought back against I'll Have Another and Blueskiesnrainbows, who led much of the race.
"We got to the lead and had real easy fractions, nobody pressed us," jockey Joe Talamo said. "He ran a really incredible race."
Creative Cause, considered the West's leading 3-year-old for much of the season, ran without blinkers for the first time in eight career races. Trainer Mike Harrington had hoped it would focus the colt, who had gotten to wandering in the stretch.
Harrington said the blinkers would stay off for the Kentucky Derby.
"He was more focused. He never bobbled," he said. "I thought the horse ran a hell of a race. The other horse beat us today, but will he beat us next time? I don't know."
I'll Have Another's victory touched off a wild scene in the winner's circle, where Reddam and O'Neill were joined by many of Reddam's 400 employees from his Anaheim-based CashCall lending company who had ridden six buses to Santa Anita. The employees chanted the company's name and some of them stood on the flower boxes along the rail to get a better view of the chaos.
"We had everyone from the office who drinks," Reddam said jokingly. "They had fun. That was the first introduction for a lot of those folks to horse racing."
Don't expect a similar scene if I'll Have Another should win the Kentucky Derby.
"This year I decided not to jinx us and I didn't book any (hotel) rooms, so I'm going to use that as my excuse why they all can't come," Reddam said.
Reddam has had four previous Derby runners, including two trained by O'Neil, but never came close to winning.
I'll Have Another is named for Reddam's response to his wife's nightly query of "Do you want any more cookies?" as he lies on the couch.
Gutierrez was mobbed by well-wishers as he tried to make his way out of the chaos.
"Mario, you're the best," an older man yelled at him. "Into the Kentucky Derby, yes sir."
Gutierrez tossed his goggles to a young boy.
Holy Candy was scratched. The colt, whose ownership includes New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, has no graded stakes earnings.
Jockey Mike Smith swept the other two $150,000 stakes on the card, winning the Providencia aboard 4-5 favorite Lady of Shamrock and the Potrero Grande with 6-5 favorite Amazombie, last year's champion sprinter. Smith earned his 5,000th career victory with Amazombie. Smith's mount Midnight Transfer was seventh in the Santa Anita Derby.