It’s North vs. South in El Camino Derby

14 Feb

By Joe Hollister

The 2019 version of the El Camino Real Derby saw Anothertwistafate go wire-to-wire in a dominating performance, winning by 7-lengths, as the local hero held off eleven other rivals including the Bob Baffert trained colt, Kingly. Anothertwistafate continued on the Derby trail with the support of Bay Area horseplayers, recording second place finishes in both the Sunland Derby and Lexington Stakes, before ultimately deferring to the Preakness, in which he finished a well-beaten 10th.

Saturday’s main event headlines a 9-race card at Golden Gate Fields, which also features a So-Cal shipper trained by the Hall-of-Fame Baffert barn. That’s 2/1 morning line favorite, Azul Coast, who arrives with legendary jockey Rafael Bejarano in the saddle. This closer may have to pass a majority of this large field, on a new surface to earn the automatic berth into the Preakness Stakes.

Azul Coast will be joined in the starting gate by another So-Cal shipper Czechmight, the Street Sense colt, off since his 2nd out maiden score at Keeneland in October. He is coming into his 3-year-old debut off a sharp bullet drill, 1st of 122 on February 8th at Santa Anita. The Steve Specht trained Sacred Rider is back after a 2nd place finish in the Cal Cup Derby while outrunning his odds of 36-1. The most seasoned of this group, Sacred Rider will be making his tenth career start. Also coming out of that race is Indian Peak, who has drawn the rail for the 2020 El Camino. He was steadied late and the 8th place finish was not indicative of this one’s talent. Indian Peak owns this group’s highest speed figure over the tapeta and with a clean trip from the rail, may be the best.

Race replay handicappers will want to watch the race from the January 19th (GGF 8th) affair where five of these runners matched up. The Stiff headed Wine and Whisky for the win, after both rallied from mid-pack to get up late over Mysterious Stones (3rd) and Ajourneytofreedom (4th), a half-brother to last year’s winner, with Final Final finishing 5th. These were the top 5 finishers from that first level allowance race, and they are all stepping up in class here.

In that race, Ajourneytofreedom loomed large at the top of the stretch, but lacked the needed finishing punch. Mysterious Stones was near the lead the entire race and continued to fight on along the rail, looking good in defeat. These five horses finished within 3 lengths and are difficult to separate here, with a slight nod going to Mysterious Stones and his ability to be up near the pace early on.

American Farmer has faced several of these in the maiden ranks and will be entering deeper waters in his first start against winners after breaking his maiden on January 26th. Praise Loudly rounds out the field and is the only entrant who broke his maiden for a tag (20k).

FINAL VERDICT

Of the newcomers to Golden Gate, Czechmight, a recent private purchase, gets the nod in this preview. The 11 post and his natural early speed may be enough to take this group wire-to-wire. Czechmight could be poised for a Triple Crown run if this one earns the 10 Kentucky Derby points awarded to the winner. Indian Peak will certainly find his place on the betting tickets with Mysterious Stones offering potential longshot value. Azul Coast, the favorite, deserves a long look and may be the foil but the money goes elsewhere.

It’s the reason we handicap; the excitement of betting (and beating the favorite).  

Joe Hollister is a local school teacher, avid handicapper and horseplayer.

 

 

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