The Morning Line: El Camino Real Derby

Back to California

Russian Greek Wins the Cal Derby

It’s time to head back out west where a pair of unexpected yet talented winners have already emerged. First it was Out of Bounds in the G3 Sham Stakes followed by I’ll Have Another in the Robert Lewis. At 10-1 and 43-1 respectively the two horses returned to their barns in good condition and are now included the 2012 Kentucky Derby discussion. So since we’re 2 for 2 in unexpected winners make sure you check your programs twice before hitting the betting window in the El Camino Real Derby. 

On this stop along the Kentucky Derby Trail we head north to the Bay Area and Golden Gate Fields for the first and only time. Because we haven’t seen an El Camino Real victor go on to win the Kentucky Derby doesn’t mean that this derby prep hasn’t been a rewarding step for an eventual winner. In 1999 the El Camino Real Derby is where Charismatic began making strides towards greatness. His only other graded stakes race prior ended with a 4th place finish and therefore put him in a desperate position to begin collecting graded stakes earnings fast. With qualification for the Kentucky Derby in limbo his 2nd place finish got things moving in the right direction and ultimately proved to be a huge assist with securing a post position in the Kentucky Derby.

The El Camino is a lively prep for the Santa Anita Derby and it has drawn a very competitive field this year. Here is your field of ten for this year’s 1 1/8 Mile El Camino Real Derby.

G3 El Camino Real Derby | Purse $200,000 | 1 1/8 Mile | All Weather Track

1 Daddy Nose Best  J. Leparoux  S. Asmussen 9-2
2 Senor Rain  K. Krigger  P. Miller 12-1
3 Cahill Chrome  J. Hernandez  R. Hansen 10-1
4 Russian Greek  A. Gryder  J. Hollendorfer 5-2
5 Unveiled Heat  F. Alvarado  S. Specht 20-1
6 Lucky Chappy (IRE)  A. Garcia  H. Motion 7-2
7 Handsome Mike  C. Nakatani  D. O’Neill 6-1
8 Rockinarz Recruit  A. Cedillo  L. Mason 20-1
9 All Squared Away  K. John  P. Miller 20-1
10 Lady of Fifty  R. Baze  J. Hollendorfer 5-1

Let’s Break it Down

Jerry Hollendorfer who has won the El Camino a record 5 times returns this year with 2 viable contenders. First is the favorite, Russian Greek. By Giant’s Causeway and the mare Sand Dollar by Grindstone this colt enters coming off of back to back wins at GGF, both non graded stakes races – Gold Rush Sakes 12/10 and California Derby 1/14. Outside of him racing again in familiar territory an additional positive is that he has shown a very relaxed racing style which fits well in races of this distance. Aaron Gryder is back in the irons for the second time after guiding him to the winners circle in the California Derby.

What’s behind a horses name isn’t always so closely tied to the owner but in this case the horses name is the owner. Mikhail Yanakov, a Russian Greek himself, owns the colt under Olympia Star, Inc. Bred by Overbrook Farms the colt most certainly receives high grades for his breeders as well as his bloodlines.

Now let’s turn our attention to Hollendorfer’s other half, Lady of Fifty. The filly is ready to challenge the boys and after coming in off of 3 straight wins she might just have what it takes to do it. Bred by Cloverleaf Farms and owned partially by Jerry Hollendorfer this young lady also knows her way around GGF.

After finishing 4th here in her second career race, Lady of Fifty caught fire her next time out in the Golden Gate Debutante, a 6 Furlong sprint that she won by a nose. She climbed in distance her next time out in the Corte Madera where she won by a ½ length over a Mile before moving up in distance again for the California Oaks. This time she didn’t keep things so close at the wire as she rated very well and drew away to score by 3 ½ in the 1 1/16 stakes race. You couldn’t ask for a better rider to be in the saddle. Russell Baze, El Camino winner a record 8 times and 6 in the last 7, is up for the second straight time.

Projections: Both horses are likely to be in the hunt and are prepared for the distance. Of the two I would give the upper hand to the Lady. I won’t be surprised if either of the two win but I won’t bet on either of them straight up. Instead I may consider an across the board wager if the odds are in a good spot.

Inside of that phenomenal streak was a win last year with Steve Asmussen and Silver Medallion. Asmussen returns to GGF in attempt to repeat last year’s victory with Daddy Nose Best. This will be his 3-yr-old debut after a very busy 2-yr-old season that included a total of 8 races. Of the 8, Daddy Nose Best scored on two different races, a MSW at Saratoga and an Allowance at Churchill Downs in November. The colt’s big races were the G3 Summer Stakes at Woodbine and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

Of the two big races his 3rd place finish fared much better than his 6th place in the BC Juvenile Turf. The upside on this colt is that he is comfortable racing against Graded Stakes competition and he should be able to handle the distance. A hot hand in the saddle works to his advantage as well. Julien Leparoux makes the trip out west from Gulfstream Park for what will be his seventh consecutive ride on Daddy Nose Best. He will be going for his second derby prep victory after scoring with Battle Hardened in the G3 Sam Davis.

Also coming off the turf for his synthetic debut is Lucky Chappy, trained by Graham Motion and owned by Team Valor. Bred in Ireland this colt started his racing career in Europe where he won 2 of his first 3 before making his first start in the U.S. at Keeneland and the G3 Bourbon. After a nice 3rd place finish, he was also entered in the BC Juvenile Turf and finished in 4th ahead of Daddy Nose Best. Last time out was on 1/21 when he finished 2nd in the Kitten’s Joy at Gulfstream. Overall he features two wins and two 2nd place finishes in 6 lifetime starts.

Projections: Both of these horses are Turf specialists and have trainers that are taking advantage of a great opportunity to test the synthetics. Of the two I have to give Lucky Chappy the nod. Both should be able to handle the distance very well and can very easily end up in the winner’s circle.

Considered contenders that are synthetic tested are Cahill Chrome, Senor Rain and Handsome Mike. Cahill Chrome and Senor Rain return to GGF after finishing a close 2nd and 3rd to Russian Greek in the California Derby. Handsome Mike returns to synthetics after he opened up the year on dirt – 4th in the G3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita.

Projections: Cahill Chrome is a GGF regular so he has more of an advantage there. The other two horses have already raced against graded stakes competition. Though I probably won’t be playing any of the three, they could definitely be a live long shot for a lot of players and pay a nice price if they hit the board.

So there’s a lot of interesting factors in play at the El Camino Real Derby. Between the horses with Kentucky Derby hopes and the ones that are unlikely Kentucky Derby entries, it should be more interesting to see where the field goes next after the race rather than their order of finish in the race. None the less, it should be exciting. Good luck to all the contenders and their connections.

Written by: Little Brink


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