It was another impressive performance from Zeewat.
The Jerry Hollendorfer trainee continued Nor Cal dominance on Saturday, winning the $100,000 California Derby by a measured half-length. The margin of victory was small but the race itself was large in the scope of things.
He broke slowly under jockey Russell Baze and had to steady a step when the runner to his right, Wildcat Moon broke in sharply crossing right in his path. Once Wildcat Moon straightened up and went for the lead, Zeewat proceeded to chase a pretty slow pace (50.6) for a half mile set my Kyle Frey on the leader, a sprinter stretching out.
When Baze asked Zeewat, he had to go a bit wide into the stretch and down the lane slowly eased past the leader and seemed geared down a bit at the wire. For the first time he faced some adversity in the race and came through like a champ. The run even impressed Hollendorfer.
“ I thought he proved himself to be a pretty good horse today,” said Hollendorfer. “He got pinched back at the start but the horse willingly ran up in between horses and then was laying fourth. And then when Russell made his run, he had to go wide. I was pleased with the way the horse handled himself.”
But in the big picture, the question has begun. Just how good is Zeewat?
We are bound to find out next month as he is now primed to face the toughest test of his career in the $200,000 Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby. The race will have a 10 point prize for the Kentucky Derby point system.
When looking at Zeewat’s record, the debate will rage on for the next month. Is he really good enough to make a dent in the three year- old scene nationwide? Or is he just a product of the circumstances he has faced.
His supports will point to his record of 4 wins in 6 starts. They will boast about how he won the Cavonnier Stakes by a comfortable 2 ½ lengths and then won easily when stretched out to a mile in the Gold Rush Stakes and 1 1/16 in the California Derby. They will also point out that in his loss at Santa Anita in the Tim Conway Stakes, the winner of the that race, Merit Man, came back to run second by a nose in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Sprint and then won the Spectacular Bid Stakes at Gulfstream.
Now, for the doubters. Argument number one. He hasn’t really faced anybody yet. His four wins have come in fields of 4, 5, 6 and 7 horses and of the horses he beat, nobody has yet to do anything since then. Also, in both stakes wins, he has beaten some of the same horses twice. Finally, in his loss in the Tim Conway Stakes at Santa Anita, he beat just one of the 5 horses in the race.
After the Cal Derby Saturday, Baze was asked how Zeewat would compare to two Kentucky Derby horses that he rode for Hollendorfer, Cause to Believe and Bwana Bull, and is answer was rather surprising.
“Very favorably” he said with no hesitation.
So no matter what side you come down on the Zeewat bandwagon, there is one thing you can’t deny. This guy is improving with every race.
Maybe, just maybe, his best is yet to come.
Stakes Horses Sidelined
Trainer Lloyd Mason had a rough morning at the track two weeks ago when he sent his two prize horses out for a workout. Both allowance runner Cardiffbythesea and stakes winner Shudcudawudya came back for their works with injuries. Cardiffbythesea will under go surgery and while Shudacudawudya does not need that. he will be sidelined for 6 to 8 months according to owner Brett Mason.
That same morning trainer Steve Specht sent out Alcatraz and Oakland Stakes winner Gig Harbor for a breeze, in which he went six furlongs in 1:12.2. However, jockey Frank Alvarado felt something amiss coming off the track and he too is now sidelined while they continue to see whats wrong. According to Specht, they have yet to find anything seriously wrong with him and it is not known how long he will be out of action.