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Manando (above) looks like a top threat in the El Camino Real Derby on Saturday at Golden Gate Fields. (Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire)

The $200,000 El Camino Real Derby (G3) is part of the Kentucky Derby prep season, which gives points to the first- through fourth-place finishers toward a start in the Run for the Roses on May 4. Leading a field of nine is Zeewat, winner of the two local prep races for this event – the Gold Rush Stakes and the California Derby, both efforts coming since blinkers were added to help him focus. The biggest threat to the local runner comes in the form of a pair of shippers from Southern California from the barn of Bob Baffert – Manando and Carving. Manando enters the race off a fine third-place effort in his first try in a stakes last month behind Goldencents in the Sham Stakes (G3), while Carving (owned in part by champion skier Bode Miller) won the Real Quiet Stakes in November before a disappointing sixth-place finish in the CashCall Futurity (G1). California Derby runner-up Wildcat Moon could be competitive at the level once again while a number of other runners are having their mettle tested in stakes company for the first time. That group is fairly inseparable in terms of recent form and includes local winner North Pacific as well as recent allowance level runners Rush In, Nina’s Dragon and Dice Flavor. Counting Days rounds out the field.

Manando ran the best race of his career in his most recent start on Jan. 5 when racing in a stakes race for the first time, leading from the start before being passed late by a pair of much more experienced runners in Goldencents and Den’s Legacy. Having earned a career-best 96 Equibase Speed Figure and improving his figure for the third straight race, Manando should be able to control the tempo in the El Camino Real Derby from the start and that should make him very tough to pass in the late stages of the race.

Carving didn’t run very well in the CashCall Futurity in his most recent race but won the Real Quiet Stakes prior to that with a career-best 93 Equibase Speed Figure that would put him in the thick of the action in the late stages if repeated in the El Camino Real Derby. Carving has won three of five career starts, his two defeats coming in Grade 1 stakes company. Considering the El Camino Real is a Grade 3 stakes and considering trainer Baffert thinks enough of him to ship him north for this test, Carving probably is the biggest threat to catch his stablemate Manando in the late stages to win.

Zeewat had blinkers added before his Dec. 8 start in the Gold Rush Stakes, his first route race (a mile or more), the result being victory by a wide margin with a career-best 94 Equibase Speed Figure figure. Zeewatt followed up that big win with a victory - despite of hopping in the air at the start to be away tardily - in the California Derby last month, regressing a bit to an 88 figure but nevertheless proving he belongs in this race. As such, Zeewatt must be respected as a contender in the El Camino Real Derby.

North Pacific should be considered a live longshot. Although having just broken his maiden (winning for the first time) on Jan. 19 and in his eighth career start, the well-bred colt earned an 87 figure that is just one point shy of the 88 that Zeewatt earned winning the California Derby and one point better than Manando earned breaking his maiden prior to his big effort in the Sham Stakes. Considering the kind of improvement Manando showed when going from the maiden ranks to stakes company, North Pacific might be able to make the same transition with aplomb and be a factor at very high odds in the El Camino Real Derby.

The rest of the field (with their best representative Equibase Speed Figure): Counting Days (90), Dice Flavor (85), Nina’s Dragon (91), Rush In (88) and Wildcat Moon (91).

My Selections:




North Pacific

$200,000 El Camino Real Derby (G3)

Saturday, Race 8, Golden Gate Fields, Post Time 7:22 PM E.T

1 1/8 miles, 3-year-olds






Wildcat Moon (FL)

K Frey

J Bonde


Rush In (KY)

J J Hernandez

W E Morey


Counting Days (KY)

D Carr

C Gaines


Manando (KY)

A T Gryder

B Baffert


Zeewat (PA)

R A Baze

J Hollendorfer


Nina's Dragon (CA)

J Couton

L C Mason


North Pacific (FL)

F T Alvarado

L Kasmerski


Carving (KY)

V Espinoza

B Baffert


Dice Flavor (KY)

J Valdivia Jr.

P Gallagher

Image Description

Ellis Starr

National Racing Analyst for Equibase, Fan Education Specialist, Bettor, Magister of Equine Prognostication (Handicapper).

Image Description

Ellis Starr

National Racing Analyst for Equibase, Fan Education Specialist, Bettor, Magister of Equine Prognostication (Handicapper).

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