Another great rivalry has shaped up late this season between the sophomore trotters Creatine and Spider Blue Chip. That match-up figures to be front and centre again on Saturday, November 9 when the two diagonally-gaited foes meet again in the $235,000 American National three-year-old colt trot.
Just last Friday (November 1) at Hoosier Park, Creatine avenged his Breeders Crown loss to his main rival by besting him by a head in the $286,500 Carl Erskine Trot in 1:54.3. Spider Blue Chip had prevailed by a head over Creatine in the $500,000 Breeders Crown Sophomore Trot on October 19 at Pocono, winning that race by a neck in 1:53.3.
Trained by Bob Stewart and bred and owned by the Diamond Creek Racing Stable of Wellsville, PA, Creatine has been steered in the majority of his outings by Hall of Famer Mike Lachance, and now sports $815,495 in career earnings.
“He came out of the win at Hoosier just happy as a clam,” Stewart said. “Afterwards, we shipped him back to our winter base of Paris, Kentucky. He’ll be at Odds On Acres on Friday morning prior to his start at Balmoral because we want to make sure he gets plenty of turn-out time before Saturday’s American National.”
A brown son of Andover Hall, Creatine raced just seven times as a freshman, with all of his pari-mutuel starts coming at Lexington. He scored three wins, a second and a third—earning $63,020 for his connections—and winning two overnights over the Red Mile clay in early autumn, before capturing the $101,000 Bluegrass two-year-old colt final on September 28, 2012 in a seasonal best 1:57.1 with Lachance in the sulky.
“We decided to stop with him and not go to the Breeders Crown or any of the other year-end races because we thought he had raced enough as a two-year-old,” Stewart said after the youngster’s Bluegrass triumph. “We were concentrating on this year and he came back to our expectations.”
Stewart’s patience obviously paid off, as Creatine has missed only two cheques all season, and has thus far amassed $752,439 in 16 starts, with eight wins, four seconds and one third.
“We’ve had good luck at Balmoral with our other horses over the years, and this will be the last start of the season for him,” Stewart acknowledged. “We’re looking forward to racing him next season.”
After having throat surgery in early July of this year to correct a breathing issue, Creatine went on to score victories in a $79,416 Pennsylvania Sire Stake on July 18 in 1:54.4 and his Hambletonian elimination on August 3 in 1:52.4. He also won a $200,000 Colonial Invitational Trot on August 17 at Pocono in a lifetime best of 1:52.2; then won a $50,000 PASS consolation in 1:53.2 by five lengths on September 13; and a $86,900 Bluegrass division on September 29 in 1:52.3.
The following week, he captured the $368,900 Kentucky Futurity Final—the third jewel of trotting’s Triple Crown—in 1:53.2 over a ‘sloppy’ Red Mile surface. The victory gave Creatine his tenth career victory and driver Mike Lachance his fourth Kentucky Futurity triumph (the win was Lachance’s second in a row, as he captured the 2012 edition with My MVP).
“We haven’t made any changes to Creatine for his Balmoral start,” Stewart noted. “He races in aluminum shoes and the only time that changes is when he races at the Red Mile and we change his shoes to steel.”
“The Hoosier win was great for the horse and great for Mike (driver Lachance),” Stewart said. “I think Mike thought he had the best horse in the Breeders Crown, and he was a bit disappointed to finish second that night. Now, hopefully, we’ll just have a repeat of the Hoosier race at Balmoral.”
Lachance, who was inducted into the Harness Racing Hall of Fame in 1995, is no stranger to winning races at Balmoral Park. He ranks 10th in history among all drivers in wins, with more 10,000 and his $189-million in purse earnings sets him third on the all-time list in that category as well.
Creatine is just the second of four foals out of the Muscles Yankee mare Berry Nice Muscles ($31,906). He has half-siblings in Strawberry Wine (by Kadabra) 4, 1:56F ($101,285) and Mister Anson (by Conway Hall) 2, 2:00.4H ($99,542). Stewart, 58, has conditioned the winners of more than $10-million to date, including Dan Patch Award winners Andover Hall and Conway Hall, and Angus Hall.
With over $1-million dollars in his career coffers, Spider Blue Chip will be looking to avenge his loss to Creatine one week ago. The brown son of Andover Hall was a $60,000 yearling purchase at the 2010 Lexington Selected Yearling Sale by owner David McDuffee of Delray Beach, FL and Melvin Hartman of Ottawa, Ont.
Besides his Breeders Crown victory in both the final and his elimination (in 1:52.4), Spider Blue Chip has also scored triumphs in the $500,000 Colonial Trot on August 17 at Pocono Downs in 1:52.2, the $260,000 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship on September 13 at the Meadows in 1:54.1, and a Bluegrass division on September 29 at the Red Mile in a career best 1:51.3.
“This horse is just is so consistent every week,” trainer Chuck Sylvester stressed. “I’m really proud of him. He wants to win and won’t let horses go by. We’ll probably race him next year since he’s a gelding.”
Spider Blue Chip also was impressive even in defeat. He was second by a head to Royalty For Life in the $294,000 Stanley Dancer Memorial at the Meadowlands on July 13, third in the Kentucky Futurity final in 1:52, and fifth in the Hambletonian Final on August 3 after winning his $70,000 elimination in 1:53.4 earlier that afternoon.
“This horse tries every week and he’ll show up,” said Sylvester, 73. “That’s what’s good."
To date in 2013, Spider Blue Chip has $1,084,218 in earnings from 19 starts, with 10 wins, three seconds and a pair of thirds. As a freshman, he earned $89,181 from eight starts, winning two, including a PASS.
When he became unruly at the end of his two-year-old season, Sylvester gelded the youngster, only to discover later that his breaking problem was caused by a foot abscess.
“He popped a gravel in his left hind hoof,” Sylvester said. “If we had known that, we wouldn’t have cut him.”
Sylvester is well known for having a special touch with the trotting gait, as he harnessed both 1987 and 1988 Horse of the Year Mack Lobell to a trio of Breeders Crown victories, and also trained two-time ‘Crown’ winner Pine Chip. He conditioned Muscles Yankee to numerous wins in 1998, and has won the famed Hambletonian four times (only Billy Haughton, Stanley Dancer and Ben White have won it more times as trainers).
Spider Blue Chip was bred by Olympic show jumping rider McLain Ward, of Brewster, NY, and is the second of four foals out of the Muscles Yankee mare Southwind Catlin 2, 1:57.2 ($203,734). He has half siblings in Depp Blue Chip (by Equinox Bi) 4, 1:58.1F ($16,243) and Mandela Blue Chip (by Crazed, now two) 2, 2:01.1F ($9,259). Regular pilot and Hall of Fame reinsman Ron Pierce is slated to drive him on Saturday.