Best of The Special: Casa Creed doubles up at Saratoga

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Editors Note: We’re wrapping up the 23rd year of The Special with some moments from the meet. You can find the complete editions from 2023 here.

Casa Creed digs in late while winning the Kelso.
Dave Harmon photo

In Favor: Casa Creed improves to 4-for-7 at Saratoga. By Tom Law. July 19 edition.
Casa Creed, like so many who turned out for Opening Weekend, loves Saratoga Race Course. Lee Einsidler, who owns the 7-year-old son of Jimmy Creed, can give him an easy run for his money when it comes to his affinity for the upstate New York racing oasis.

The celebration of all things Saratoga spilled into the winner’s circle on Day 3 of the meet Saturday as Casa Creed won his fourth race from seven tries – the wins are all stakes – here in the Grade 3 Kelso. A winner on Saratoga’s main track in his second start at Saratoga at 2, Casa Creed thrives even more on the Saratoga turf and improved to 3-for-5 on the Spa sod in the 1-mile Kelso.

“Not only Casa Creed but his owner loves Saratoga, too,” said trainer Bill Mott, who saddled Casa Creed to his seventh stakes win. “I guess we all get hyped up about Saratoga, right? Casa Creed is one of us.”

Casa Creed transferred that hype into a 1-length victory over odds-on favorite Annapolis in the $175,000 Kelso, winning as the 2-1 second choice under Luis Saez. Casa Creed added the Kelso to his other Saratoga victories in the Grade 2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes in 2019 and last year’s Grade 1 Fourstardave Handicap.

A return date to the Fourstardave for Casa Creed appears likely for the Mott, Einsidler and co-owner JEH Racing Stable. But Team Casa Creed wasn’t about to let the good times stop after the Kelso.

Einsidler beamed as he made his way from the box seats to the winner’s circle, exchanging high fives along the way with fans, fellow owners and horsemen. He purchased Casa Creed for $105,000 at the 2017 Keeneland September yearling sale – on the advice of trainer Ken McPeek – and isn’t shy about his passion for the horse who has banked $2,185,308 in 32 starts.

“He’s special. He’s taken us around the world and he’s made a huge difference in our lives,” Einsidler said. “When you get into this game, they become part of your family. Life is all about building memories and this is another great one.”

Casa Creed added more memories in the Kelso, which came up salty for a Grade 3 with Grade 1 winner Annapolis, multiple Grade 2 winner Filo Di Arianna, Grade 3 winner English Bee and multiple stakes winner Big Everest in the field.

Second in the $1.5 million 1351 Turf Sprint on the Saudi Cup undercard in late February, Casa Creed came into the Kelso with a third in his only other start this season in the Grade 1 Jaipur Stakes on the Belmont Stakes Day program. He’d won back-to-back editions of the 6-furlong Jaipur prior to this year, including last year’s renewal in 1:07.44, so his fondness for Saratoga isn’t exclusive.

“He wants to run, so as long as he’s telling us he wants to run that’s what we’ll do,” Einsidler said of bringing the star back at 7. “When he tells us he wants to retire, we’ll find a home for him.”

Saez found a home for Casa Creed in the early to middle stages of the Kelso that made the difference. Breaking from the outside post in the field of seven, Casa Creed found a spot behind dueling frontrunners Big Everest and Filo Di Arianna and stalkers Anaconda and English Bee past the finish the first time and into the first turn.

Casa Creed raced alongside Annapolis around that bend and up the backstretch as Big Everest clicked off the opening quarter over the firm inner turf in :23.35. Saez held that spot entering the far turn and past the half in :47.07, keeping Annapolis and Irad Ortiz Jr. toward the rail and behind English Bee and Anaconda. Saez knew where he wanted to be and stayed there.

“The key was to try to be right there on top of the favorite,” Saez said. “Everything came out perfect. He broke pretty sharp. I can feel it behind the gate, too, he was a little bit tough. So, I don’t want to take too much. I just let him break and be comfortable, and he was pretty comfortable.”

Casa Creed made a three-wide run at the leaders around the far turn, getting the jump on Annapolis turning for home and taking over with less than a quarter-mile to run. He sprinted home from there, passing Big Everest and English Bee and holding off Annapolis inside the final sixteenth. Casa Creed won in 1:35.51 and improved to 8-for-32 with five seconds and five thirds.

“It says something for Casa Creed because the horse he beat is a real horse and a real tough competitor. And he handled him today,” Mott said, winning the race previously named the Forbidden Apple for the first time.

Owner Lee Einsidler and groom Ana Urista lead in
Casa Creed after the Fourstardave. Tod Marks photo

His House: Casa Creed catches Annapolis in Grade 1. By Sean Clancy. August 16 edition.
Bill Mott jumped out of his clubhouse box seconds after Casa Creed collared Annapolis in the Grade 1 Fourstardave at Saratoga Saturday.

“That was ——- amazing, huh?”

Uh huh.

Bounding down the steps toward the winner’s circle, Mott explained his amazement.

“I knew they were going to try to get first run on us and they did,” Mott said. “That was the same kind of effort Elite Power put in, they didn’t have to get there. This horse didn’t have to get there today. That horse had the jump on him turning for home, which is what they wanted, and he just ran him down.”

Four-year-old Annapolis, indeed, got first run. Seven-year-old Casa Creed, decisively, got last run. And, yeah, it looked similar to when the Mott-trained Elite Power went after and wore down Gunite to win the Grade 1 Vanderbilt earlier in the meet.

In a rematch from opening weekend’s Grade 3 Kelso, when Casa Creed moved first and held off Annapolis, the playbooks flipped with Annapolis kicking to a lead turning for home. Casa Creed lowered down, stretched and ran down his rival. Owned by LRE Racing and JEH Racing Stable, the son of Jimmy Creed added his ninth victory to a 33-start career and pushed his earnings to $2,460,308. In a race named after a Saratoga legend who won at least one race (six stakes) eight years in a row here, Casa Creed won for the fifth time (fourth stakes), in his sixth season at Saratoga.

“That’s something you can’t pick out. You lead them up on a shank and you don’t know. You just never know,” Mott said. “He’s been very sound. Most horses as they get older, they’ll improve if they’re sound. This horse, he’s sound and he’s kept his desire. He gives it to you, he digs in and gives it to you. He likes the game.”

Loves the game.

Casa Creed broke alertly from post six in the seven-horse field, moved forward four wide, before moving over two wide, just outside Annapolis. The rematch was on. My Sea Cottage led through a quarter-mile in :23.31. So High eased off him in second. Annapolis and Irad Ortiz Jr. settled in third with Casa Creed and Luis Saez lapped onto him from the outside. Emmanuel found a spot in fifth with Full Screen, who blew the first turn, unsettled in sixth and Ice Chocolat well back in last.

My Sea Cottage rolled through a half mile in :46.57 as Ortiz positioned Annapolis outside So High and inside Casa Creed. Into the turn, My Sea Cottage led and Annapolis pulled Ortiz into second while Saez began to nudge on Casa Creed, 2 length behind his main foe. Turning for home Annapolis engaged My Sea Cottage as Ortiz switched his whip to his left hand and Annapolis momentarily drifted out. All the while, Saez was in a full drive and Casa Creed was winding up like Tony Gwynn with two strikes.

“I didn’t know at the quarter pole because those other two got away from him,” Mott said. “It looked like they were going to pull it off but that’s a pretty good horse that was chasing him.”

Annapolis ran past My Sea Cottage nearing the eighth pole and looked home free. With Saez in his poised, perfect rhythm, Casa Creed did his best Elite Power and gradually wore down Annapolis, grudgingly a runner-up.

Making his fourth start in the Fourstardave (two wins, two thirds), Casa Creed collared Annapolis inside the sixteenth pole to win by three-quarters of a length. Casa Creed finished the mile on the inner turf in 1:34.20. Favorite Annapolis was a game second with fourth choice Ice Chocolat, who lost position when Full Screen drifted out into the first turn, closing for third.

“He’s just one of those horses, knock on wood,” Mott said, reaching for a paddock tree.  “Some of them get some little aches and pains and it holds them up, it hinders their form. But we’ve been fortunate with him. That’s the whole thing with Channel Maker, he’s been very sound all his life. Some of them aren’t that lucky and we’re not that lucky with some of the others.”

Channel Maker, 9, won the Grade 3 Bowling Green July 30. Mott has garnered four graded stakes at the meet with three horses whose average age is 7.

Bred by Silver Springs Stud and picked out by Kenny McPeek for Lee Einsidler’s LRE Racing at Keeneland September Sales for $105,000, Casa Creed finished sixth going 6 furlongs on the dirt in his career debut here in 2018. Seven days later, he won going 7 furlongs on the dirt. He followed that with a seventh in the Grade 1 Champagne and a sixth in the Spendthrift Juvenile Stallion Stakes at Churchill Downs. Switched to the turf, he won the Kitten’s Joy at Gulfstream Park in his 3-year-old debut and has never looked back.

Casa Creed added the Grade 2 Hall of Fame Stakes here in 2019. In 2020, he was winless but finished third in the Fourstardave. The Kentucky-bred took the Elusive Quality and the Grade 1 Jaipur in 2021. In 2022, he nabbed the Jaipur again and his first Fourstardave. This year, Casa Creed began with a second in the Grade 3 1351 Turf Sprint in Saudi Arabia before finishing third in the Jaipur and winning twice at Saratoga.

After the race, Mott congratulated groom Ana Urista, assistant Neil Poznansky and Einsidler. After the winner’s circle photo, the Hall of Fame trainer walked up the stretch where Urista held and Poznansky hosed off the living legend, then Mott watched the trophy presentation outside the winner’s circle next to photographers Skip Dickstein and Dave Harmon. Once the formalities were over, Mott shook the hand of Fourstardave’s trainer Leo O’Brien, hugged his granddaughter Lerina and his daughter, Leona.

“We give him every chance. We’ve been lucky not to have any mishaps, it’s hard to explain. We’ve trained him on good racetracks. He’s had to go out there and gallop in the mud sometimes, but you just never know. He’s a lighter made horse, he’s kind of easy on himself. Got a little bit of knee action but he’s not a big, heavy horse,” Mott said. “He’s been well taken care of. The people that I have around him are just terrific. Ana, she’s a very good groom. He’s always had a good groom. He’s easy to ride. We don’t always keep the same rider on him, just depends on the set list looks like. Everybody’s had a chance to get on him. Neil makes the set sheet out and usually puts himself on him, I don’t blame him.”

A race after the Fourstardave, Mott legged up Joel Rosario on Forrest City and waited under a tree in the paddock. Seven horses later, Ortiz rode past on Ice Road.

“It was a good try,” Mott said.

The jockey shook his head and didn’t utter a word. The silent, painful taste of defeat.