El Camino Real Derby
The El Camino Real Derby, held every February at Golden Gate Fields in Northern California, is an early prep race towards the Kentucky Derby. The race, in addition to Grade 3 status and a purse of $200,000, offers the top four finishers coveted points towards eligibility in the Kentucky Derby starting gate. Run at a mile and an eighth, the race has been held on Golden Gate’s Tapeta surface since the track switched to synthetics in 2007.
The El Camino Real Derby was originally run at Bay Meadows and called the El Camino Real Stakes when it was inaugurated in 1976. It became known as the El Camino Real Derby in 1982 and gained graded stakes status in 1986. After switching locations to Golden Gate Fields from 2001 through 2004, the race was permanently relocated to Golden Gate in 2009 after Bay Meadows closed permanently. It remains one of the few Kentucky Derby prep races held on a synthetic surface.
Russell Baze holds the title for the most wins in North American racing history with over 12,000 victories as a jockey and many of those victories have come in Northern California. He has won the El Camino Real Derby a remarkable nine times and with a career that remains very active, that number could still increase. He won with French Legionaire (1984), Event of the Year (1998), Uncle Denny (2005), Cause to Believe (2006), Bwana Bull (2007), Chocolate Candy (2009), Connemara (2010), Silver Medallion (2011) and Tamarando (2014).
Jerry Hollendorfer, another dominant force in Northern California racing, has the record for the most victories as a trainer with six, five of which came with Russell Baze aboard. In addition to teaming up with Baze for victories in the 1998, 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2014 editions of the El Camino Real Derby, he also sent out Yougottawanna to win in 2002 with Jason Lumpkins in the irons. Of his winners, the most brilliant may have been Event of the Year in 1998 who, after winning the Jim Beam Stakes (G2), was primed to go to the Kentucky Derby undefeated and favored before being sidelined with an injury.
One of the most noteworthy and successful alumni of the El Camino Real Derby is Tabasco Cat, the victor in 1994. Making his three-year-old debut for trainer D. Wayke Lukas, the chestnut colt rolled to a sharp win under Pat Day, defeating the favorite and establishing himself as a sophomore to watch. He would go on to win both the Preakness Stakes (G1) and the Belmont Stakes (G1) after finishing sixth in the Kentucky Derby that year.
El Camino Real Derby Betting Odds
Having just broke his maiden in the previous race, Metaboss was somewhat overlooked in the 2015 El Camino Real, but the savvy horseplayer who bet him at 7-1 was rewarded with a nice $2 return of $15.20, and with 7-1 Cross the Line just getting by the favorite in the last strides, the $1 trifecta payout was upped to more than $175. Whether it’s a straight Win bet or a exotic, placing a wager at Golden Gate through an online racebook like Bovada is fast, easy and secure.
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2017 El Camino Real Derby Contenders
The 2016 edition of the El Camino Real Derby (G3) drew a large, competitive and wide open field with a lot of questions to be answered. Frank Conversation, trained by Doug O’Neill and owned by Reddam Racing, the same connections that won the Kentucky Derby (G1) in 2012 with I’ll Have Another, went to post as the favorite.
Under Mario Gutierrez, the bay colt delivered on the favoritism and rallied sharply to win by ¾ of a length over Tusk, who also closed to finish second. Kasseopia (GB) managed to get up for third after breaking slowly. Frank Conversation has now won on turf and synthetics but has yet to prove he can be competitive on conventional dirt.
2016 Order of Finish: Win Place Show
1st: Frank Conversation $5.20 $3.40 $2.80
2nd: Tusk $8.00 $4.40
3rd: Kasseopia (GB) $3.80
(Also Ran: San Dimas, Diplodocous, Algenon, Mana Strike, Marqula, Oscar Dominguez (IRE), Kelly With a Twist, Touched by Autism, Giopress, Go Long Scratched: Mr. Coker)
Check back closer to the race for the contenders for the 2017 El Camino Real Derby.