The Road to the Kentucky Derby makes a stop at Golden Gate Fields on Saturday as a field of nine promising three-year-olds line up in the Grade 3 $200,000 El Camino Real Derby.
The winner of the race will earn 10 points toward earning a berth in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday of May.
Hall of fame trainer Bob Baffert sends out a pair of runners including Manando, who is the 9-5 morning line favorite. The $300,000 Ocala purchase was beaten two lengths for the top spot in the Grade 3 Sham by Goldencents in his last outing. The colt gets a new rider in Aaron Gryder and will break from the four post.
Baffert will also saddle Carving (3-1), who makes his first start since a sixth place finish in the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park on Dec. 15.
The El Camino Real Derby is one of two races this holiday weekend that could produce a few starters for the Run for the Roses.
Monday’s Grade 3 $300,000 Southwest at Oaklawn Park figures to draw a solid field. Baffert sends out the promising colt Super Ninety Nine, who makes his stakes debut after an impressive victory against optional claiming company in his last outing at Santa Anita Park.
Baffert swept the Derby preps at Oaklawn Park last year, winning both divisions of the Southwest with Secret Circle and Castaway, the Grade 2 Rebel again with Secret Circle, and winning the Grade 2 Arkansas Derby with Bodemeister.
Others expected to enter include Smarty Jones Stakes winner Will Take Charge, and the two colts that came out on the wrong end of a three-way photo in that race, Texas Bling and Always a Tiz.
Saturday’s Best Plays Report will include my strongest plays from Aqueduct and Gulfstream Park.
Let’s head out to Golden Gate Fields for Saturday’s featured race of the day:
Golden Gate Fields Race 8 The El Camino Real Derby Post time 4:22 PT
5 Zeewat 5-2
8 Carving 3-1
4 Manando 9-5
1 Wildcat Moon 6-1
Zeewat overcame getting off a beat slow when he hopped at the start and hesitated slightly at the break to win the California Derby last out for his third stakes win in his career. The colt came with a four wide rally and battled on gamely in the stretch to prevail by a half-length over Wild Moon. The colt is trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, who has won the El Camino Real Derby five times and jockey Russell Baze has won the race eight times. The son of Harlan’s Holiday should get a good pace set up here as he should be able to track off what likely is going to be sharp early fractions.
Carving is one of two in here sent out by the Bob Baffert barn. The colt makes his three-year-olds debut here after making five starts last year including wins in the Afflebaugh at Fairplex and the Real Quiet at Hollywood Park over the fake stuff. He came up short in his last start in the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity. The barn is 34% winners (with a +ROI) with runners coming back off a 61-180 day layoff. He figures to be the higher price of the two Baffert runners.
Manando owns the top two speed figs, last out setting the early fractions and weakening to finish third in the Grade 3 Sham at Santa Anita Park in his first go against winners. The colt was a good looking maiden winner two back at Hollywood Park and that effort was flattered when both the runner up and third place finisher both came back to win next out. The colt owns solid early and mid pace numbers but could end up getting mixed up in an early speed duel which will make his 9-5 morning line on the light side.
WIN: Zeewat to win at 5-2 or better.
EX: 5,8 / 4,5,6,8
TRI: 5,8 / 4,5,6,8 / 2,4,5,6,8
Michael Dempsey provides his full card handicapping report each racing day from New York. His Aqueduct Report is available every day Wednesday through Sunday. Michael has covered the New York circuit daily for more than two decades.