In the Money: Analysis of the El Camino Real Derby

El Camino Real Derby

The Road to the Kentucky Derby travels through San Francisco Saturday with the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields.

The $200,000, 1 1/8-mile race on synthetic features a field of nine. Will Bob Baffert dominate the Gate as he has with shippers at Oaklawn? Will Hollendorfer and Baze continue their winning ways in this annual test? A longshot could step up in this varied field.

1. Wildcat Moon (D’Wildcat – Moonshine Girl by Shadeed) (6-1)

Trainer: Jeff Bonde

Jockey: K. Frey

Owner: Jeff Bonde, Mersad Metanovic, and Margaret Shindelas

Record at 1 1/8: first try

Synthetic record: 7 (2-4-1)

Golden Gate record: 5 (2-2-0)

This consistent runner didn’t surrender easily to Zeewat in the California Derby, setting the pace and holding on for second. That  1 1/16-mile test was his first try beyond six furlongs. Prior to that race, he won an optional claimer over the track coming from off the pace, the first time in his three victories he was successful with that tactic. He’s training well with two straight bullet works over the surface, including a stamina-building six-furlong work. He appears to be a solid sprinter and this distance might be out of his range, but he can rate if necessary and poses a good exotics play. If he takes front-running tactic, will set up well for mid-pack closer.

2. Rush In (Langfuhr – Alittlebitearly by Thunder Gulch) (12-1)

Trainer: William Morey

Jockey: J. Hernandez

Owner: Saul Gevertz, Michael Nentwig, Roger Newman and Ray Pagano

Record at 1 1/8: first try

Synthetic record: 3 (1-1-0)

Golden Gate record: 3 (1-1-0)

One can see why he was purchased privately after winning his debut at 1 1/16-miles at Churchill Downs – when he was 21-1. He was no match for Zeewat in the Gold Rush Derby, and might have been a case of too much, too soon for the lightly-raced gelding. He bounced back with a win in an allowance race that was taken off the turf, and he was much closer to the pace in that test. Morey can pull off an upset, but the loss of top jockey Russell Baze hurts. He’s coming back on 15 days rest after failing as the favorite in an optional claimer.

3. Counting Days (Mingun – Cuanto Es by Exbourne) (30-1)

Trainer: Carla Gaines

Jockey: D. Carr

Owner: Swift Thoroughbreds

Record at 1 1/8: first try

Synthetic record: 1 (1-0-0)

Golden Gate record: first race

After peaking in speed figures, he took a steep drop in his first race on dirt, but was facing tough competition in that allowance test. He romped by more than 10 lengths in his only try on synthetic, and his trainer boasts a high percentage over it, but that Keeneland race was a maiden $50k. Still, a return to his favored surface off a layoff could put him in line as a bottom of exotics wager at a high price.

4. Manando (Bluegrass Cat – Mesmerizing Lady by Unbridled’s Song) (9-5)

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Jockey: A. Gryder

Owner: Kaleem Shah

Record at 1 1/8: first try

Synthetic record: 3 (1-0-2)

Golden Gate record: first race

Baffert holds a strong hand with this speedy favorite, who boasts back class, a win routing on synthetic and a top last-out speed figure. He’s held his own – and in his maiden win, beaten – some very nice prospects, including stablemate Curly Top. His one drawback is running style – looks like he could be one who needs the lead. Can he break away from the field at this distance? Jockey switch to Gryder from Garcia, who stays at Santa Anita.

5. Zeewat (Harlan’s Holiday – Delizia by Distant View) (5-2)

Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer

Jockey; Russell Baze

Owner: Hollendorfer and George Todaro

Record at 1 1/8: first try

Synthetic record: 3 (2-0-1)

Golden Gate record: 3 (2-0-1)

Dangerous runner with a locally-dominating duo of Hollendorfer and Baze is impossible to ignore here. He’s two for two at two turns and with blinkers, both stakes races. He boasts a versatile running style and shouldn’t have any trouble with the added distance. One drawback is his final times pale to those of Manado’s gigs, but it is a surface transfer. He could win on the distance factor alone.

6. Nina’s Dragon (Tizbud – Just Lookn by Synastry) (12-1)

Trainer: Lloyd Mason

Jockey: J. Couton

Owner: Dave Currie and Yuhong Nina Bai.

Record at 1 1/8: first try

Synthetic record: 2 (1-0-1)

Golden Gate record: 2 (1-0-1)

This California-bred’s maiden win was a sharp run over the surface, six furlongs in 1:10.68 and he reeled in the pacesetter off swift fractions. The third-place follow-up at a mile was better than it looked on paper, as he was closing well to get within a length of the winner. Class is the question; he should like added distance.

7. North Pacific (Master Command – Quelle Surprise by Slew Gin Fizz) (30-1)

Trainer: Len Kazmerski

Jockey: F. Alvarado

Owner: Rozamund Barclay

Record at 1 1/8: first try

Synthetic record: 4 (1-0-2)

Golden Gate record: 4 (1-0-2)

Former Hastings-based runner broke his maiden in his eighth start when he came from off the hot pace set by Russdiculous. Good jockey in the irons and a gradual improvement since his arrival at Golden Gate, but tough to back against this class of foes. Kazmerski’s first attempt at the El Camino since 1979, when he was fourth with Loto Canada.

8. Carving (Any Given Saturday – In Seconds by Giant’s Causeway) (3-1)

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Jockey: V. Espinoza

Owner: Natalie Baffert and Bode Miller

Record at 1 1/8: first try

Synthetic record: 3 (2-0-0)

Golden Gate record: first race

The other half of Baffert’s two-pronged attack, he could be the one to step up as he likes synthetic, is accustomed to routing and has battled Grade 1 foes. Layoff is not a concern, it’s a benefit with Baffert – he’s 34 percent off this time frame. Manando’s maiden win was faster than his Real Quiet, but Carving has proved he can come from off the pace. Appealing at these odds.

9. Dice Flavor (Scat Daddy – Afleet Summer by Afleet) (20-1)

Trainer: Paddy Gallagher

Jockey: J. Valdivia

Owner: Oda Racing Stable and US Equine

Record at 1 1/8:

Synthetic record: first try

Golden Gate record: first race

This is an intriguing prospect making his first start on synthetic with a pedigree that leans to that surface. His maiden win on turf at 1 1/16-miles was a superb 1:43.94 (final split 6:07). Outside post is to his benefit at this distance; he likes to rally from off the pace, but shouldn’t be too far back considering Manando’s speed. Daddy Nose Best, last year’s winner, was by Scat Daddy. Live longshot/exotics play.

Box: 8) Carving, 9) Dice Flavor, 5) Zeewat, 4) Manando

Live longshot: 9) Dice Flavor

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