I'll Have Another, ridden by Mario Gutierrez, races to victory in… (Benoit Photo / Associated…)
Generally, post-race celebrations in the Winner's Circle at Santa Anita are fairly sedate, with maybe a dozen or so people posing for a photo with the victorious horse. But that certainly wasn't the case after I'll Have Another edged 9-10 favorite Creative Cause by a nose in Saturday's Santa Anita Derby before a crowd of 33,166 to establish himself as the West Coast's top representative in the Kentucky Derby on May 5.
There were hundreds of rowdy people crammed together in the Winner's Circle.
I'll Have Another, trained by Doug O'Neill, is owned by Paul and Zillah Reddam, who own the CashCall loan company in Anaheim. Paul Reddam put up a poster inviting all 1,300 of his employees to Santa Anita to watch his horse run in the Santa Anita Derby, offering bus transportation, free admission and a $24 voucher for betting and concessions. Around 400 signed up.
"We had six buses," Reddam said. "One was designated for nondrinkers and one for sloppy drunks, with the other for those somewhere in between. I think we ended up with one bus with nondrinkers and five with sloppy drunks."
Their chant was "CashCall," not "last call."
Asked if this group will be following him and I'll Have Another to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby, Reddam said, "I didn't want to jinx anything, so I booked no rooms there. That will be my excuse."
As for how he came up with the name for the horse, Reddam, tongue in cheek, said: "When I'm home watching TV with Zillah and she bakes a batch of cookies, I always tell her, 'I'll have another.'"
Jockey Mario Gutierrez, a native of Mexico who as a teenager went to Vancouver, Canada, in 2006 to ride, was aboard I'll Have Another when he won the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at odds of 43-1 on Feb. 4 and again Saturday in the Santa Anita Derby. Now only 25, he is headed to the Kentucky Derby.
I'll Have Another had raced three times before the Lewis Stakes and won once, on July 3 at Hollywood Park. Joel Rosario, who rode I'll Have Another in his first two races, was aboard Creative Cause on Saturday.
After the race, O'Neill explained the jockey choice. "I was here with Paul and Zillah early in the meet when we saw Mario win a race. I had no idea who he was."
He learned that Gutierrez, 25, had come to Santa Anita from Canada with trainer Troy Taylor and was represented by 85-year-old agent Ivan Puhich.
"We couldn't get Rafael Bejarano, so we got Gutierrez," O'Neill said.
After Saturday's big win, a smiling Gutierrez, said, "This is so unbelievable."
O'Neill, besides praising Gutierrez, said, "I've got to give a shout-out to Martin Panza, Jack Leibau and Eual Wyatt at Hollywood Park [where I'll Have Another is stabled]. We had to have our horse here by 7 a.m. because of a 5K run, and the Hollywood Park track doesn't open until 5:30. But they opened it early so we could work out the horse for about 50 minutes beginning at 5. I think that contributed to his performance today."
Blueskiesnrainbows, one of trainer Bob Baffert's three Santa Anita Derby entries, finished third, a half a length behind Creative Cause, and paid $9.60 to show.
Holy Candy, the horse part-owned by New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, was scratched Saturday morning and will run in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky., next Saturday. "We decided to give him an extra week off," said trainer John Sadler. "Also he's been working on a synthetic track [at Hollywood Park], and Keeneland has a synthetic track."
Besides the Santa Anita Derby, there were two other graded stakes races on Saturday's 11-race card, and Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith won both of those to get to 5,000 wins in his career. He won aboard Lady of Shamrock in the $150,000 Providencia Stakes and Amazombie in the $150,000 Protero Grade Stakes. Amazombie won last year's Breeders' Cup Sprint.