By Dick Downey
It's North vs. South in Saturday's Grade III El Camino Real Derby as the one-two finishers from the California Derby meet a pair of shippers from the barn of Bob Baffert.
A field of nine is entered in the signature race at Golden Gate Fields, set to go as the eighth on Saturday. The race is worth 17 points on the road to the Kentucky Derby, with 10 going to the winner.
The headliner is Zeewat, who battled past Wildcat Moon to win the Cal Derby by a half-length on Jan. 12.
Zeewat, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, is nothing if not consistent. A winner of four of six races, he's come out on top in his last two starts at Golden Gate. He was victorious in the one-mile Gold Rush Stakes before taking the 1 1/16-mile California Derby. The El Camino Real Derby stretches him out again to 1 1/8 mile. By Harlan's Holiday out of the Distant View mare Delizia, Zeewat is bred for distance. Russell Baze has the return mount on Zeewat.
Wildcat Moon did the hard work in the California Derby, but he was allowed to get away with a moderate pace on its synthetic surface before being outfinished in deep stretch. The Jeff Bonde trainee already has been off the board in only one of his eight career races. Taking six starts to break his maiden, he has racked up two wins, five places and one show. Kyle Frey will ride Wildcat Moon for the second time.
Manando, shipped from Santa Anita by Baffert, should provide some company for Wildcat Moon in the early going on Saturday. He's been the pacesetter in three of his five races, most recently leading to a third-place finish in the Grade III Sham Stakes behind Goldencents and Den's Legacy. Aaron Gryder will be aboard for the first time.
Carving, also trained by Baffert, has freshened since he finished up the track in the Grade I CashCall Futurity, beaten 9 1/4 lengths by Violence. Before that, he attended the pace to win the Real Quiet Stakes. He may feel at home on Saturday, as both those races were on the synthetic at Betfair Hollywood Park, and he broke his maiden at Del Mar. Victor Espinoza debuts in the saddle for Carving.
Bill Morey trains Rush In, who finished fourth to Zeewat in the Gold Rush. Since then, he's had a win and a second in a pair of races at Golden Gate.
The well-traveled Counting Days will start at his sixth track in six races for trainer Carla Gaines. He's run at Saratoga, Kentucky Downs, Keeneland, Betfair Hollywood Park and Santa Anita.
Dice Flavor also ships up from Santa Anita for trainer Paddy Gallagher. He's raced on synthetic and turf only and broke his maiden on the grass two starts back.
Nina's Dragon is a maiden winner at Golden Gate trained by Lloyd Mason. North Pacific, also locally based and trained by Len Kasmerski, is one-for-eight lifetime.
Grade III El Camino Real Derby
Golden Gate Fields
1 1/8 Mile
Post Time: 7:22 ET
|1||Wildcat Moon (FL)||6-1||K. Frey||121||J. Bonde|
|2||Rush In (KY)||12-1||J. Hernandez||121||W. Morey|
|3||Counting Days (KY)||30-1||D. Carr||121||C. Gaines|
|4||Manando (KY)||9-5||A. Gryder||121||B. Baffert|
|5||Zeewat (PA)||5-2||R. Baze||121||J. Hollendorfer|
|6||Nina's Dragon (CA)||12-1||J. Couton||121||L. Mason|
|7||North Pacific (FL)||30-1||F. Alvarado||121||K. Kasmerski|
|8||Carving (KY)||3-1||V. Espinoza||121||B. Baffert|
|9||Dice Flavor (KY)||20-1||J. Valdivia Jr.||121||P. Gallagher|
Owners: 1 - Bonde, Lebherz, Metanovic or Shindelas ; 2 - Saul Gevertz, Michael Nentwig, Roger Newman or Ray Pagano ; 3 - Swift Thoroughbreds, Inc. ; 4 - Kaleem Shah, Inc. ; 5 - Jerry Hollendorfer or George Todaro ; 6 - Yuhong Nina Bai & Dave Currie ; 7 - Rozamund Barclay ; 8 - Natalie J. Baffert & Bode Miller ; 9 - Oda Racing Stable or US Equine
Breeders: 1 - Silver Oaks Farm; 2 - Helen Alexander; 3 - Flaxman Holdings Limited; 4 - Whisper Hill Farm LLC; 5 - Derry Meeting Farm; 6 - Dave Currie; 7 - Haras Santa Maria de Araras S.A.; 8 - WinStar Farm, LLC; 9 - Paget Bloodstock, Nearctic Bloodstock &Carhue Investments