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HRN Original Blog:
Bay Area Backstretch

El Camino Real Derby pits North vs. South

It will be a battle of north versus south this Saturday at Golden Gate Fields, and you might just say there is a big opportunity that lies ahead for the winning connections.

The main event is the $200,000 El Camino Real Derby and it will be run at 1 1/8 miles. Not only is this a major stepping stone to the Kentucky Derby, but it is the start of the Preakness 5.5 (a five million dollar bonus to the winning owner of a horse that wins the El Camino, the Santa Anita Derby and the Preakness Stakes).

Since we don’t have Michael Buffer to announce the competitors for this heavyweight match up, I will do my best impersonation.

Laaaaadies and gentleman, (ding, ding) . Now for the competitors.

In one corner, hailing from Golden Gate Fields, trained by William E. Morey and ridden by Julien Couton, we have the winner of the Gold Rush Stakes and the California Derby….Positive Response.

Comma To The TopIn the other corner, stabled at Hollywood Park, trained by Peter Miller and ridden by Corey Nakatani, winner of five straight races including the grade 1 Cash Call Futurity and the grade 3 Generous Stakes. Earner of over $550,000.…..Comma to the Top.
 
Ok gentlemen, we want a good clean race, put your hooves together and may the best horse win.

Alright, enough with the fun and games lets get down to serious business.

Comma to the Top, the 6-5 morning line favorite, is currenly the 11th ranked horse in the latest poll of 2011 Kentucky Derby hopefuls right here on Horse Racing Nation.

A couple things stand out when looking at Comma’s past performances.

For openers, two of his five consecutive wins, came here at Golden Gate Fields in 2010, both allowance races, and both on the Tapeta Surface. Also, in all five of his latest wins, he has been behind a horse just one time, and that was his latest win in the Cash Call when he was second out of the gate, but soon after got the lead by the half mile. Other than that, he is a front running machine that has never been less than 3 ½ lengths in front turning for home in any of his six lifetime wins.

Could this shape up as a battle of front running favorites?

Probably not. Remember the same was said about Positive Response before his last race. He had won two straight races in front running fashion, but in the California Derby, with other front runners (such as Jakesam, who is also in this race) ‘Response rated off the pace and won with an impressive turn of foot around the far turn.

I guess I should mention there is another horse in this race with some respectable credentials and that is Silver Medallion, out of the Steve Asmussen barn. He formerly trained a couple other pretty good horses in Curlin and Rachel Alexandra.

Medallion will be ridden by Russell Baze and is actually the second favorite in the race, (5-2) coming off of a win in the Eddie Logan Stakes on the turf and Santa Anita. But I think when the betting commences, that Comma and Response will be one-two in the wagering.

So who has the upper hand?

You have to think that Comma to the Top is the real deal. You don’t win three straight stakes races in virtually wire-to-wire fashion if you aren’t. But something tells me that IF, Jakesam or Formula Gold puts some pressure on Comma to the Top, and IF Positive Response can settle a little farther behind this time and let them battle it out of front, the home town track can maybe get Positive Response to make a big run down to the wire.

If all that doesn’t happen, Comma to the Top may just put a period at the end of the phrase “El Camino Real Derby winner”.

Lets get ready to ruuumbleeeeeee (Sorry couldn't resist)

Here's the field from the rail out:
Comma to the Top (Nakatani, 6-5), Bluegrass Reward (Juan Hernandez, 15-1), Formula Gold (Hector Romero, 30-1), Silver Medallion (Baze, 5-2), Positive Response (Couton, 7-2), Anthony’s Cross (Aaron Gryder, 10-1) and Jakesam (Frank Alvarado, 8-1).

 

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Older Comments about El Camino Real Derby pits North vs. South...

I'm not so sure it's not North vs North. Peter Miller stated earlier that he wanted Comma To The Top to be the horse from North California, since he's won here twice and also been stabled in No. Cal. I think the race sets up nice for Positive Response.Jakesam will be gunning early, and so will CTTT, breaking from the rail. Positive Response can get a nice garden spot seat from the 5-hole. When they hit the turn for home CTTT should have a nice lead, and it will be up to PR to gun him down in the last sixteenth. I think CTTTTmay be vunerable in that last 1/16th coming off 2 months rest. My trifecta pick for the ECRD is Positive Response with Comma To The Top with Bluegrass Reward
I agree 12 clip and KYOaksRuner, I think the distance may be a problem for CTTT, especially if pressed by Jakesam. Peter Miller told me today that the horse can rate, but i don't think that will be the case. And i still consider CTTT to be from the south. It's all going to depend on how easy the early lead is for MIllers horse.
I've been hearing some doubt as to wether or not Comma to the Top can get 1 1/8 miles especially in his 2011 debut, but I think he'll do fine. He's alread done a lot more than his pedigee say he should. I like the looks of Anthony's Cross and Silver Medallion as well.
Comma to the Top could put Golden Gate back on the Kentucky Derby Trail ... or maybe we can just thank Stronach cash.

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Meet Don August

I have been involved in horse racing, from a fan to sportswriter, for the past 30 years. The first time my dad took me to the track, I picked a horse named "Black Tornado" and when he won, I was hooked.  From then on, I spent weekends and occasional school days at the race track, and my enjoyment of the sport led me to try my hand at being a jockey agent, which i did for 3 years. When that didn't work out as I had hoped, I concentrated on my writing career by covering big races and doing summer fair handicapping, off and on, for the Contra Costa Times.

Today, I stay involved in the sport by being part of a group that currently owns two horses stabled at Golden Gate Fields. As all owners, we have dreams of someday having that special horse.  Besides writing about horse racing I enjoy covering many sports and have had the honor of meeting and writing about some incredible athletes.