Friday, February 17, 2012

CA Derby and Oaks Champs Vie in El Camino Real Derby

In the last eleven years, the El Camino Real Derby (G-3) has lost some stature. Only one horse, 2003 third place runner Ten Most Wanted has finished in the money in a Triple Crown race. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, the El Camino Real Derby produced two Kentucky Derby winners, Gato Del Sol and Charismatic, who finished second in their respective El Camino Real Derbies. Snow Chief and Tabasco Cat won the Northern California race and each became winners of Triple Crown races. Special mention to El Camino Real hero Cavonnier, who placed in the 1996 Kentucky Derby.

This year, nine colts and a filly vie to become the next El Camino Real Derby champ. The 1 1/8 mile event will separate the sprinter/milers from horses that can run a route of ground and have the pedigrees to be true Triple Crown competitors.

RussianGreekPhotoVassarPerennial leading Golden Gate conditioner Jerry Hollendorfer has entered the California Derby and Oaks winners, Russian Greek and Lady of Fifty. RUSSIAN GREEK (Giant's Causeway - Sand Dollar, by Grindstone) has the pedigree to run all day. His sire is already classified as a Classic Chef de race, which indicates that he imparts stamina to his offspring. Russian Greek’s damsire is Kentucky Derby hero Grindstone, and adding even more stamina to the mix is Russian Greek’s second damsire, the heroic Triple Crown runner-up Alydar. Russian Greek has a classy female family. His half-sister Ocean Current is stakes placed and their dam is a half-sister to Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Cat Thief. Russian Greek’s second dam is a Grade 3 winner and third dam Track Robbery was 1982 Champion Older Mare. Russian Greek enters the El Camino Real with victories in the Gold Rush and California Derby under his girth.

The other Hollendorfer entrant is the filly LADY OFLadyOfFiftyPhotoVassar FIFTY (After Market - K. D.'s Shady Lady, by Maria's Mon). The pretty gray miss also has a stamina-oriented pedigree. Her sire was a top turf router and her damsire produced two Kentucky Derby champs. Lady of Fifty is a half-sister to the stakes wining turf miler Forestry Steel. Their dam placed in the Grade 3 Tempted Stakes and two listed events, while their second dam Annie’s Apple was also stakes placed. Lady of Fifty has been beating up on the filly division at Golden Gate. She’s won her last three starts, all stakes races, including the California Oaks.

Cahill Chrome, Senor Rain and Unveiled Heat, the second, third and fifth place finishers in the California Derby come back for another shot at Russian Greek.

CAHILL CHROME (Cahill Road - Takes Two to Mango, by Bold Badgett) was defeated 2 ¾ lengths combined in the Gold Rush and California Derby by Russian Greek. Cahill Chrome’s sire is a full brother to Kentucky Derby winner and top sire Unbridled, while damsire Bold Badgett is an unraced full brother to Kentucky Derby/Preakness runner-up Desert Wine. Cahill Chrome’s pedigree is borderline for getting 1 1/8 miles. Although his damsire has a stamina oriented pedigree, his offspring and that of his daughters rarely win past 1 1/16 miles. Cahill Chrome is a half-brother to the stakes placed sprinter Two To Get Ready and their dam is a stakes winning sprinter.

SENORRAINIn his first try over Tapeta, SENOR RAIN (El Nino - Make My Marq, by Marquetry) hung in the stretch of the California Derby, winding up third, 2 1/3 lengths behind Russian Greek. Senor Rain has an obscure pedigree. He is the only black type runner produced by his sire. El Nino’s best finish was a third place in the Amsterdam Stakes (G-2). Senor Rain’s unraced dam is a half-sister to a stakes placed runner, but this distaff family is mostly compiled of hardy bread-and-butter types.

The late developing UNVEILED HEAT (UnusualUNVEILEDHEAT Heat - Lift the Veil, by Cure the Blues) needed eight tries to win his maiden. A month later, he finished fifth in the California Derby while racing three wide. He was beaten only 3 ½ lengths by Russian Greek in a good effort. The son of top California sire Unusual Heat has the pedigree to enjoy going long. Although his damsire never won past 1 1/6 miles, his daughters have produced stakes winners up to 1 ¼ miles. Unveiled Heat’s distaff line is modest, but tough. His dam and second dam are unraced, but all of Unveiled Heat’s six half siblings are winners, and two are listed winners.

HANDSOMEMIKETwo sons of second crop sire Scat Daddy will try the Tapeta for the first time. HANDSOME MIKE (Scat Daddy - Classic Strike, by Smart Strike) faltered in the final stages of the CashCall Futurity after setting the pace. He came back in the Sham Stakes (G-3) but had no response over dirt, and was soundly beaten by 5 ¾ lengths. Handsome Mike’s sire Scat Daddy is making a name for himself as a sire of turf/synthetic runners, but so far, his progeny appear to have distance limitations. Handsome Mike does receive stamina through his distaff sire Smart Strike and his dam’s sole win was at 1 1/8 miles over the turf. Handsome Mike will wear blinkers for the first time and the O’Neil barn gets 15% winners with that angle.

The other son of Scat Daddy, DADDY NOSE DaddyKnowsBestPhotoCoglineseBEST (Scat Daddy - Follow Your Bliss, by Thunder Gulch) has competed steadily over the turf since last July. He’s flashed some sporadic talent, beaten only 3 ¼ lengths in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf after a four-wide run, but he has a history of finding trouble and being rank. Scat Daddy’s female family offers some stamina through damsire Kentucky Derby hero Thunder Gulch and second damsire, Preakness winner Pine Bluff. Daddy Nose Best ‘s distaff line is fairly modest. His dam was winless in seven attempts, but his second dam was a turf stakes winner at 1 1/16 miles.

LuckyChappyPhotoBarbaraLivingstonLUCKY CHAPPY (High Chaparral - Germane, by Distant Relative) races for the connections of Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom. Lucky Chappy has shown plenty of talent, but has yet to break through with a win in the US. The pretty gray colt has one of the classiest pedigrees in the field. The five tail sires and the first through third damsires in Lucky Chappy’s pedigree are all Champions. Lucky Chappy is a half-brother to two stakes placed runners. Their Group 3 winning dam is a half-sister to two stakes winners. Additionally, Lucky Chappy has inbreeding to the blue hen Lalun through her sons Bold Reason and Never Bend. As one would expect, Lucky Chappy’s sire gets mainly turf runners, but he does have a few winners over Polytrack.

After blitzing maidens at Golden Gate,Rockinarz Recruit ROCKINARZ RECRUIT (Our New Recruit - With a Flash, by Deputy Commander) was a distant third against state-bred optional claimers while sprinting over the dirt at Santa Anita. Rockinarz Recruit is only the third winner sired by Dubai Golden Shaheen Champ Our New Recruit. Rockinarz Recruit ‘s damsire is a Travers Stakes hero. However, as a broodmare sire, Deputy Commander has no stakes winners at 1 1/8 miles or farther. Rockinarz Recruit does have a touch of stamina through his female family, as his second dam With A Twist won the 1 1/8 mile Rare Treat Handicap (G-3).

ALLSQUAREDAWAYRecent maiden winner ALL SQUARED AWAY (Bellamy Road - Squared, by Posse) had his break-through win last time out at Golden Gate after competing unsuccessfully against maiden claimers at the Southern California tracks. All Squared Away has a sprint-orientated pedigree. His sire’s offspring are mainly sprinter/milers, however, he does have two winners at 1 1/8 miles. All Squared Away ‘s distaff family has a sprinkling of stakes winners. His unraced dam is a half-sister to stakes winner Plumlake Lady and his second dam is stakes placed.



Track Bias: Overall, the Tapeta track plays fair, although posts four and higher appear to have the slight advantage.

The last three editions of the El Camino Real Derby were won by So Cal invaders.

RUSSIAN GREEK appears to be the one to beat. He’s bested three of the eight entrants and there doesn’t appear to be much in here to beat him. Still, as we’ve often seen, anything can happen in a horse race, so let’s take a look at some other possibilities.

There appears to be some early speed in the race

to run with LADY OF FIFTY, although she’s proven that she doesn’t need the lead to win. HANDSOME MIKE has been competing against the top So Cal colts. He was beaten only three lengths by Liaison in the CashCall, but went wide in the Sham. He may be just a synthetic/turf runner and this is probably farther than he wants to go, but Handsome Mike’s BRIS speed figures are improving and he’s making his third start off a layoff. The gritty SENOR RAIN has been out-running his pedigree. He’s been ambitiously placed against some nice horses and has finished out of the money only once in his eight race career. ROCKINARZ RECRUIT is the speed of the race. He freaked against maidens, getting six furlongs in 1:09 3/5. He’ll be winging it on the lead and they’ll have to catch him. DADDY NOSE BEST has a high profile trainer/jock combo, but distance is a serious question mark. LUCKY CHAPPY has the pedigree and some class, but is experimenting with Tapeta. He’s at pretty low odds for an experiment.