Photo: Don August
We are just three days away from the most anticipated race at Golden Gate Fields in quite some time. The Grade III, $200,000 El Camino Real Derby will take place on Saturday and it will bring with it an unprecedented amount of questions and drama. The likes of Julien Leparoux (One of only four jockeys to win an eclipse award as an apprentice and a journeyman) and Alan Garcia (winner of the 2008 Belmont on 38-1 longshot Da’ Tara) will be making their first ever trip to Northern California. Jerry Hollendorfer will be running his prize filly, Lady of Fifty, as part of a two-pronged attack, with Russian Greek (above), and trainers Graham Motion, Doug O’Neil, Steve Asmussen and Peter Miller will be attempting to steal the glory from the home fans.
Here is how the race shapes up from the rail out.
Steve Bass (Agent for Julien Leparoux) “We wouldn’t be coming from Miami if we didn’t think the horse had a chance to win. We don’t think he will have a problem with the surface.”
Scott Blasie (Asst to trainer Steve Asmussen) “He’s coming into the race good. We won this race last year (Silver Medallion) coming off of the Eddie Logan Stakes and we are going to try and do it again.”
MY TAKE: Didn’t run well on the Santa Anita Dirt in December. Will have to really love the surface to win.
Jockey Kevin Krigger: “He had a real nice workout yesterday and he has a good chance to win. I think he’s more fit than when he ran in the Cal Derby and I’m happy to be part of this.”
Trainer Peter Miller : “He’s been training well. I think his third in the California Derby will help him, as will the extra distance. It will be a tactful race and a very competitive one.”
MY TAKE: I expect a big effort from this one since he had a race over the track already. He moved and hung in the Cal Derby but this time he may make the winning move.
Jockey Juan Hernandez: “ He’s working good, he may just repeat the same race as the California Derby.”
Trainer Roger Hansen: “I think he gets better the farther he goes so I think the distance is good for him. He should be right there.”
MY TAKE: Was a surprising second at 29-1 to Russian Greek in the California Derby. Don’t be surprised to see him right there at big odds again.
Jockey Aaron Gryder: “Ive been happy with the way he’s going. He’s a generous horse, you don’t rush him you just let him settle. I’d like to see a bigger field, so we can get a nice pace to run at.”
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer: “Russian Greek is improving every week. I like the way he runs them down in the lane. Giants Causeway horses have shown they can get the mile and a quarter.”
MY TAKE: Will have to avoid traffic problems when he starts his late kick but can get there with trouble free race.
Jockey Frank Alvarado: “He’s doing really good. Last time Steve (Specht) said he was up a little too close. It’s not an easy race but I got a chance to win.”
Trainer Steve Specht: “He was only beaten three lengths (in the Cal Derby) and I didn’t get the trip I thought I would. I think a little more patient rating by this rider and I think he will run a big race.”
MY TAKE: Jockey switch from Cedillo to Alvarado may boost his chances. Is another late closer to add big stretch run.
Jockey Alan Garcia: “I’ve never been on this horse before but I hear he is very nice. I’m excited to come to Golden Gate and excited for the race.”
Trainer Graham Motion: “Great spot to prep him for Dubai by stretching him out the mile and one-eighth on the same Tapeta surface in a graded race.”
MY TAKE: He has never raced on a surface other than the turf but turf runners do well on this track. Wouldn’t be surprised to see him right there.
Jockey Corey Nakatani: Unavailable for comment
Trainer Doug O’Neil : “ We freshened him up a little and we’re excited about the race. It should be an acid test for him. We wheeled him back a little too soon in the Sham but we are sending a good horse up there.”
MY TAKE: He’s coming off two disappointing stakes tries. Hard to see him winning this one.
Jockey Abel Cedillo: “He has a chance. He’s been working pretty good, it’s an even race.”
Trainer Lloyd Mason: “It’s been tough getting a race for him, so we’re taking a chance in here and we’ll see if we can get lucky. He’s a big horse with a big stride so we will see how he does.”
MY TAKE: Will be making his first attempt at a race longer than 6 furlongs. Seems tough task.
Jockey Kerwin John : “He came here and ran good on the surface (maiden win last time out) , got a nice comfortable lead and took to the track beautiful.”
Trainer Peter Miller: “He’s coming in good, he’s been working great and he’s starting to get good. He’s by Bellamy Road so I don’t think the distance will be a problem.”
MY TAKE: Only a maiden win on his resume and should be part of a pace duel up front.
Jockey Russell Baze: “She’s as sharp as I’ve seen her in the mornings. She has been very willing and on the muscle more than normal. Jerry is not going to run her if he doesn’t think she has a shot.”
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer: “She is doing great. I don‘t like to run girls against the boys but in this race, I can find out is she can go a mile and an eighth and can test her quality. She has speed and tactical speed and she has won here, so there you go.”
MY TAKE: Russell thinks she can rate even though she has always been on the lead. Rating will be very important to her chances. Don’t rule out her going wire to wire if she’s on the engine.
So there you have it. Who will win?
I give the advantage to some of the local horses because the Tapeta surface is not kind to horses that have never run on it before. It may be unrealistic to predict the Hollendorfer pair to run 1-2, but I won’t rule it out.
This is how I see it. All Squared Away and Rockinarz Recruit battle for the early lead, Lady of Fifty sits right behind with Lucky Chappy. When the field turns for home, Lady of Fifty takes command and will have to fend off runs by Cahill Chrome, Russian Greek, Senior Rain and Daddy Nose Best.
And at the wire, the winner is….