Photo: Benoit Photo
thought almost seems silly looking back, but it was not until a win or two in
open company before most people started to believe that California Chrome could compete at the highest level. Might we
think the same of Ann Arbor Eddie
somewhere in the not too distant future?
good performance in Saturday’s Grade 3, $200,000 El Camino Real Derby at Golden
Gate Fields could lead to big things for the California-bred son of Square
Eddie. Trained and owned by the familiar pair of Doug O’Neill and Paul Reddam, Ann Arbor Eddie has both the $2
million UAE Derby on March 25, and the 2017 Kentucky Derby on his radar.
First things first, though. The 1 1/8-mile
affair on the synthetic main track at the Bay Area oval offers 10 Kentucky
Derby qualifying points to the winner. For the chestnut gelding, with the same
connections as I’ll Have Another and Nyquist, it offers an opportunity to prove
that he can handle graded stakes competition. To date, Ann Arbor Eddie has done
impressive 4 ¼-length winner of his career debut back in October at Santa
Anita, Ann Arbor Eddie jumped straight from the maiden race against
California-breds into the proverbial fire, when he came back in the Grade 3 Bob
Hope Stakes three weeks later. He was third, beaten 2 ¾-lengths that day, but
given the reputation of the winner, Mastery, the performance was nothing in
which to be ashamed.
then, Ann Arbor Eddie is unbeaten in two starts. First, he stretched out for
the one-mile, two-turn King Glorious Stakes at Los Alamitos in December, where
he put away the multiple stakes winning California Diamond by better than a
length. Next, he defeated the same rival when scoring in the 1 1/16-mile
California Cup Derby at Santa Anita on January 28.
While all four of his starts
have been strong, it’s easy to point out that all his wins have come against
statebreds, while his lone loss was the one in open company. That’s
fair to say, but looking at his competition in the last three, there looks to
be more under the hood than your average statebred. Because of this, and the
fact that his good tactical speed will likely find him on the lead in a race
without much early speed, Ann Arbor Eddie will be my top selection in the El
Camino Real Derby.
It is worth noting that this will be his first try on a
synthetic racing surface, but he has pedigree on both sides to handle the
switch of surfaces. Ann Arbor Eddie will break from the 3-post, and will once
again have Mario Gutierrez in the
saddle. He is listed as the 2-1 second choice on the morning line.
morning line favorite is Sheer Flattery
from the Jerry Hollendorfer barn. The son of Flatter is the only one in the
field to have already earned Derby points. He did so when he finished a decent
third behind Royal Mo in the Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita just
two weeks ago. Bet down as the 7-5 favorite in that one, he was no match for
the impressive winner, but was finishing with good energy to only miss second
by a neck. Like Ann Arbor Eddie, this
will be his initial try on a synthetic surface.
the top two appear the ones to beat on Saturday, there are things to like about
several others in the field. If anyone does pull the upset, More Power to Him looks
like the most likely to do so. Improving noticeably since stretched out, he already
has two wins at Golden Gate Fields, and most recently was a good second in the
rest of the El Camino Real Derby includes; Tribal Storm, a winner of 2-of-3
lifetime, and most recently third, beaten 4 ¾-lengths by Ann Arbor Eddie in the
California Cup Derby; Colonel Samsen, winner of the Gold Rush Stakes at Golden
Gate Fields three starts back; Kona Dreams, still a maiden, but has been
consistent while running exclusively on the turf in Southern California; and Zakaroff,
who was fifth, but beaten only four-lengths in the California Derby last time.
El Camino Real Derby will go off as the 7th race on Saturday’s card
at Golden Gate Fields with an expected post-time of 3:45 PM Pacific Time.