California Derby Champ Zeewat Among Nine Entered In El Camino Real Derby

California Derby Champ Zeewat Among Nine Entered In El Camino Real Derby

     California Derby champion Zeewat will face eight rivals, including a pair of runners trained by three-time Kentucky Derby winner Bob Baffert, in the Grade 3 $200,000 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields Saturday.

     A 1 1/8-mile test for 3-year-olds, the El Camino Real Derby is Northern California’s official Kentucky Derby prep race.  The El Camino Real Derby is the eighth race on a nine-race program and will  be carried live on Comcast SportsNet California during its one-hour telecast (4 p.m. to 5 p.m.) from Golden Gate Fields.  Post time for the El Camino Real Derby is 4:40 p.m.

     First post Saturday is 12:45 p.m.  Gates open at 10 a.m. and fans attending Golden Gate Fields with a paid admission will receive a free fleece jacket that features the official El Camino Real Derby logo.

     Zeewat, trained by Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer, will be gunning for his third straight stakes victory.  Zeewat won the one-mile Gold Rush Stakes by 3 1/4 lengths on Dec. 8 and then opened his 3-year-old campaign with a half-length victory over fellow El Camino Real Derby entrant Wildcat Moon in the California Derby on Jan. 12.

     Zeewat overcame some adversity in winning the California Derby as he was cut off at the start by an inward-breaking Wildcat Moon and then was forced to race four-wide into the stretch.  The California Derby was the fourth career stakes win for Zeewat, who captured the six-furlong Cavonnier Juvenile Stakes at Santa Rosa last summer.

     Zeewat, a Pennsylvania-bred son of Harlan’s Holiday, has four wins and a third in six career starts and tops the El Camino Real Derby field in earnings with $177,700.  Owned in partnership by Hollendorfer and George Todaro, Zeewat will try to give Hollendorfer his sixth victory in the El Camino Real Derby.

     Zeewat will be ridden by Hall of Famer Russell Baze, the winningest jockey in North American racing history with 11,855 career victories.

     Baffert scored his Kentucky Derby wins with Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998, and War Emblem in 2002.  He’ll try to win the El Camino Real Derby for a second time Saturday when he sends out the multiple stakes-winning colt Carving and the $300,000 colt Manando.  

     Carving won three of his five starts as a 2-year-old, including the C.B. Afflerbaugh Stakes at Fairplex Park and the Real Quiet at Betfair Hollywood Park.  He’ll make his
3-year-old debut in the El Camino Real Derby under jockey Victor Espinoza, who guided War Emblem to his Kentucky Derby win.

     Manando, a son of Bluegrass Cat purchased for $300,000 at the 2012 Ocala Breeders’ Sale, is coming off a solid third-place try in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita on Jan. 5.  Manando earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 91 for his effort in the Sham and that Beyer number is the best among the El Camino Real Derby entrants.  

     Jockey Aaron Gryder, who has the distinction of having won the world’s richest horse race (the $6 million Dubai World Cup with Well Armed in 2009), will ride Manando Saturday.

     Wildcat Moon, trained by Jeff Bonde, went straight to the lead in the California Derby once jockey Kyle Frey straightened him out and led the field into the stretch.  Collared at the eighth pole by Zeewat, Wildcat Moon fought on tenaciously to the wire and was only beaten a half-length.  Wildcat Moon has finished in the money in all eight of his races.

     The El Camino Real Derby field also includes Counting Days, Dice Flavor, Nina’s Dragon, North Pacific, and Rush In.  

    Counting Days, trained by Carla Gaines, is 1-for-1 racing on synthetic racetracks as he romped home by 10 1/4 lengths in winning a six-furlong maiden claiming race on Keeneland’s Polytrack.  

     Dice Flavor, trained by Irishman Paddy Gallagher, has made all four of his starts on grass and goes into the El Camino Real Derby off a third-place finish in a one-mile allowance race at Santa Anita on Feb. 1.

     Nina’s Dragon hails from the Lloyd Mason barn and is coming off a third-place try in a mile allowance race at Golden Gate Fields on Feb. 1.  North Pacific, trained by Len Kasmerski, broke his maiden in his eighth career start when he rallied to win a six-furlong maiden allowance race at Golden Gate Fields on Jan. 19.  
     Rush In finished fourth in the Gold Rush Stakes and most recently finished second, beaten a half-length, in a mile maiden allowance race at Golden Gate Fields on Feb. 1.
Rush In is trained by William E. Morey, who also conditions Positive Response, the 2011
California Derby winner who ran third in the 2011 El Camino Real Derby.  
      The field for the El Camino Real Derby, in post position order with riders and morning-line odds, is as follows: Wildcat Moon, Frey, 6-1; Rush In, Juan Hernandez,
12-1; Counting Days, Dennis Carr, 30-1; Manando, Gryder, 9-5; Zeewat, Baze,
5-2; Nina’s Dragon, Julien Couton, 12-1; North Pacific, Frank Alvarado, 30-1; Carving, Espinoza, 3-1; and Dice Flavor, Jose Valdivia, Jr., 20-1.  All of the starters will carry 121 pounds.