Bumpy Ride on the Kentucky Derby Trail

Kentucky Derby aspirations may have changed for the two pre-race favorites following the running of the El Camino Real Derby on Saturday.

Lets start with the 1-2 favorite,
Comma to the Top.

Racing for the first time in two months, ‘Comma broke alertly, lugged out during the run to the first turn then settled in a great stalking position onto the backstretch.

Following pacesetter Jakesam, ‘Comma moved up on the far turn, looked poised to take control and then just flattened out. In the run through the final sixteenth, he lugged out again bumping eventual winner Silver Medallion, and faded to finish a well beaten 4th, almost five lengths behind.

After the race, Comma to the Top’s trainer Peter Miller called Corey Nakatani’s ride “Interesting” but said the jock would ride the horse next time.

It wasn’t as interesting to the stewards at Golden Gate, who handed Nakatani a 3 day suspension for “ failure to make a proper effort to maintain a straight course in the stretch and causing interference.”

I don’t expect the 11th ranked horse in Horse Racing Nation’s list of
2011 Kentucky Derby Contenders to stay on the derby trail much longer.

The same can be said for 5-2 second choice,
Positive Response.

The son of Pomeroy, also tested his come from behind style, dropped much further behind than most thought he would be, under jockey Julien Couton.

“It wasn’t a perfect race or perfect trip for us,” said ‘Response trainer William E. Morey. “We didn’t expect to be last and that far behind.”

‘Response was sixth at the quarter pole and fifth, trailing by over six lengths at the half mile mark. Probably too far back for a horse that had only come from off the pace to win once, and was a lot closer to the lead in that win.

When Couton asked ‘Response to move up on the far turn, there was no response.

Fourth into the stretch, he battled gamely down the lane and finished third, beaten only two non-threatening lengths.

“He ran good, I just think the two ahead of us got better trips than we did, that’s racing luck,” Morey said.

And as for the future of Positive Response?

“We will look at races the next tier down. It probably won’t be a Grade 1,” Morey said.

What can we say about the winner,
Silver Medallion?

Well I guess you could kick yourself if you didn’t bet on Russell Baze in a big race at Golden Gate Fields. The morning line second choice, slipped to 6-1, and won the race by 1 ¼ lengths.

The win was the third straight El Camino Real for Baze and saved the day for trainer Steve Assmussen. The trainer had earlier watched his highly touted Tapizar run 5th as the odds on choice in the Robert B Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita.

That race was won by Anthony’s Cross, who scratched out of the El Camino to run there. While Anthony’s Cross is now slated to be looking at the Santa Anita Derby, the plans of Tapizar, Positive Response, Comma to the Top and Silver Medallion are up in the air.

Weird how one race may change the plans of so many derby hopefuls.
 

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.

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