Race of the Week 2017

HRN Original Blog:
Zipse At The Track

Ann Arbor Eddie tests open waters in the El Camino Real Derby

Ann Arbor Eddie wins 2017 Cal Cup Derby
Photo: Benoit Photo

The 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?


A 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 nothing wrong.


An 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.


Since 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.


The 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.


While 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 California Derby.


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.


The 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.


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Meet Brian Zipse 

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, and American Pharoah. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. 

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, or ZATT for short, and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as co-hosting the popular racing show, HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.


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