El Camino Saturday at Golden Gate

13 Feb

The only Bay Area race offering qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby (10 to the winner) takes place Saturday with the running of the $100,000 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields. While the winning over the Tapeta surface doesn’t always translate to success on dirt, the 10 Derby points can make the difference between making the starting gate at Churchill Downs or staying home and watching it in the barn. And even if the El Camino winner doesn’t make it to the Derby, he’s guaranteed an automatic berth to the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course on the 3rd Saturday in May.

Suffice to say, quite a bit is on the line in the 1 1/8 miles test for three-year-olds over the Tapeta oval that straddles Albany and Berkeley this Saturday. So much so that the powerhouse barn of “Derby” Bob Baffert is expected to saddle the favorite in Azul Coast (2/1), who exits a second place finish in the Sham Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita on Jan. 4. Having shown an affinity for rallying from of the pace in his previous two starts on dirt, it will be interesting to see how the son of Derby winner Super Saver takes to the Tapeta.

Azul isn’t the only shipper with his eyes on leaving town with 10 Derby points, however, as Czechmight (6/1) ships in off a blowout work (four panels in :47 2/5) at Santa Anita for the Richard Baltas barn. He was last seen breaking his maiden at Keeneland on Oct. 13. And while it might seem counterintuitive to back a horse named The Stiff (8/1), he does boast a recent win over the track and surface, taking an optional 40k claimer here on Jan. 19.

Among the top local contenders is Indian Peak (7/2), who owns a win over both the Tapeta and the turf course, Sacred Rider (9/2), who boasts a win and three seconds from nine starts, and Ajourneytofreedom (12/1), who hails from the same barn as last year’s winner, Anothertwistafate.

The El Camino is slated at the 7th of nine races on Saturday’s card, and will go to post at approximately 3:52pm. First post at Golden Gate is 12:45pm.

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