Belmont Doings: New experience for Creator

Creator will try a new distance at a new track with a new rider when he competes in the Belmont Stakes on June 11.

Creator, who won the Arkansas Derby before a troubled 13th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, will make his first start at Belmont Park in the last and longest of the Triple Crown races, the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes, and he’ll be ridden by New York-based Irad Ortiz Jr., who was announced on Monday as Creator’s Belmont jockey.

For the past seven weeks, Creator has been stabled at Churchill Downs, where on Monday he worked five furlongs in 1:02 in company. Jockey Florent Geroux was aboard.

“It was a steady work, nothing crazy,” Geroux said.

“Nice and smooth, galloped out good,” said trainer Steve Asmussen. “He’s doing well, traveling really good. We’re just keeping him in a nice, long rhythm.”

Alluding to the 1 1/2-mile Belmont distance, he said, “Obviously, staying is going to come into play.”

Creator, who rallied from last in the Arkansas Derby, began well back in the Kentucky Derby and was making what appeared to be a significant rally when he was stopped badly in severe traffic on the far turn. He was ridden that day by Ricardo Santana Jr., who has been on Creator for six of his nine starts, including the Arkansas Derby victory.

Elliott Walden, the president and chief executive of WinStar Farm, which owns Creator, said the success Ortiz has enjoyed in recent years on his home circuit in New York made him a desirable choice for the Belmont.

“He’s a great young rider,” Walden said.

Creator, a son of Tapit, has won twice in his nine starts. He did not defeat maidens until his sixth start, then was third in the Rebel Stakes prior to capturing the Arkansas Derby.

He gives WinStar two interests in the Belmont Stakes, with WinStar having acquired the breeding rights to Exaggerator after his victory in the Santa Anita Derby in April. Exaggerator is expected to be the strong Belmont favorite after capturing the Preakness Stakes on May 21.

Creator was scheduled to ship to New York on Tuesday, as were trainer Dale Romans’s two Belmont entrants, Brody’s Cause and Cherry Wine.

Asmussen said that the older sprinter Holy Boss would also be traveling to New York on Tuesday to compete in the Grade 2, $250,000 True North Handicap going six furlongs on June 10. Counterforce, second last time out in the Chick Lang Stakes at Pimlico on May 21, went straight to Belmont from Pimlico, and Asmussen said he will run there June 11 in the Grade 2, $500,000 Woody Stephens, a seven-furlong race for 3-year-olds.

Creator was one of two Asmussen trainees who competed in the Kentucky Derby. Gun Runner, third behind Nyquist and Exaggerator in the Derby, is being pointed to the Grade 3, $100,000 Matt Winn Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on June 18 at Churchill Downs. On Monday, Gun Runner worked five furlongs without company in 1:01 under exercise rider Carlos Rosas.

Gun Runner captured the Risen Star Stakes and the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds in his two starts this year prior to the Kentucky Derby.

Tom Franklin is a senior contributor at US Racing.
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