As Bob Baffert’s barn builds his 2020 Kentucky Derby brigade, the trainer now has a colt who’s working to clinch a starting spot for the Triple Crown’s second jewel.
Azul Coast came through in the stretch Saturday at Golden Gate Fields to win the $100,000 El Camino Real Derby.
The 1 1/8-mile El Camino Real – one of the few synthetic stops on the Derby trail – pays points toward the Derby starting gates on a 10-4-2-1 basis. It also awards its winner free entry to the Preakness Stakes, the second jewel of the Triple Crown..
Azul Coast, who broke his maiden first out Dec. 8 at Los Alamitos, entered off a distance second-place finish to stablemate Authentic on Jan. 4 at Santa Anita in the Sham Stakes (G3).
The familiar partnership of Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman – McKinzie's owners – campaign Azul Coast, a $320,000 yearling purchase in 2018. The Super Saver colt has collected 14 Kentucky Derby trail points, second among Baffert trainees to Thousand Words’ 20.
“He’s a really good trainer and he always does a really good job with his horses -- knows what to do,” jockey Rafael Bejarano said of Baffert. “He had him ready, this horse for this race.”
Czechmight, a Richard Baltas trainee, set opening fractions of :24.15 and :49.13 while Azul Coast sat a comfortable third. Azul Coast came into the stretch four-wide and was pressed throughout but scored by a length to back up his 6-5 favoritism.
Azul Coast will have his share of west coast options to continue the Derby trail. Should Baffert keep him on synthetic, Turfway Park hosts the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) on March 14, also at nine furlongs.
Baffert has won the Kentucky Derby five times, one short of the all-time record held by Ben Jones.
"He's developing nicely," Pegram told TVG, "and hopefully we'll have a second half (of the year) horse...The horse just has got to keep on moving forward. Hopefully if he does, we'll see him on the first Saturday in May. If not, he's going to be a good horse, and he's going to win some more derbies."