Tamarando (outside) won the El Camino Real Derby on Feb. 15 (Photo by Shane Micheli/Vassar Photography)
Making the Grade, which will run through the 2014 Belmont Stakes, focuses on the winners of the big races, usually from the previous weekend, who could impact the next Triple Crown. We’ll be taking a close look at impressive winners and evaluating their chances to win classic races based upon ability, running style, connections (owner, trainer, jockey) and pedigree.
This week we take a closer look at Tamarando, winner of the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby on Feb. 15 at Golden Gate Fields.
Tamarando is a very tough horse to get a read on. He showed class in winning the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity as a 2-year-old but later in 2013 finished third as the overwhelming favorite against California-breds in the Golden State Juvenile Stakes on the dirt main track at Santa Anita Park. On the surface, he looks like a sprinter but his best career effort came at 1 1/8 miles in the El Camino Real Derby. You feel like there is some inconsistency because he lost some races you expected him to win and he then wins when you’re not anticipating seeing him in the winner’s circle. But then you look at his record and only once in ten starts has he finished outside the top three in a race. All of his four wins have come on synthetic surfaces, yet he’s got a solid record of a second and two third-place finishes from three races on dirt. One thing seems clear, there’s more to Tamarando than meets the eye.
Dark Bay or Brown Colt
Sire (Father): Bertrando
Dam (Mother): Tamarack Bay, by Dehere
Owners-Breeders: Mr. and Mrs. Larry D. Williams (Calif.)
Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer
Ability: Outside of a fourth-place finish in his debut, Tamarando has been in the top three in all of his ten starts. He charged from well off the pace to win the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity in September 2013 before finishing third in the Grade 1 FrontRunner Stakes in his first start on dirt. Tamarando then finished third in the Golden State Juvenile before impressively winning the Real Quiet Stakes at 1 1/16 miles and earning a then career-best Equibase Speed Figure of 91.
Tamarando has five starts in races 1 1/16 miles or longer with two wins, one second and two thirds, including posting a career-best 96 Equibase Speed Figure in his first try at 1 1/8 miles in the El Camino Real Derby. The big concern for me is that he was soundly beaten by both Shared Belief and Candy Boy in the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity in December and then by California Chrome in the California Derby in his first start this year. Can he take another step forward and close some ground on the best of his generation? He will need to in order to be a major threat in the Kentucky Derby, but the El Camino Real was a promising step in the right direction.
Running style: Tamarando is a deep closer who makes one big, surge at the end of his races. That type of running style has its positives and its negatives. On one hand, Tamarando always does his best running at the end and you can see from his record that he’s always right in the thick of it at the end of his races. On the other hand, his chances of winning can be compromised by traffic on the final turn or in the stretch that could stop his momentum. He’s also at the mercy of pace of any race. When a top opponent with early speed gets away with an easy lead, there is really nothing he can do but run his race and hope the leader slows down late. In the CashCall Futurity when he finished third to Shared Belief and his runner-up finish to California Chrome in the California Derby in his 2014 debut, the winner had a commanding lead in the stretch and enough fuel in the tank to finish strongly. Looking forward, though, it’s easy to see a scenario in the 1 ¼-mile Kentucky Derby where the speed horses are hitting a wall in the stretch and Tamarando is one of the few horses just finding his best stride.
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Connections: Jerry Hollendorfer has been a dominant force in Northern California since the mid-1980s and was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 2011. Hollendorfer has had five Kentucky Derby starters with his best results fifth-place finishes from Eye of the Tiger (2003) and Chocolate Candy (2009). Hollendorfer won the Kentucky Oaks three times — 1991 with Lite Light, 1996 with Pike Place Dancer and 2011 with Blind Luck.
Russell Baze is the all-time leading North American rider by victories with more than 12,000 and his mounts have earned more than $188 million. Inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1999, Baze’s two Kentucky Derby mounts both resulted in unplaced finishes.
Tamarando is a homebred of Larry and Marianne Williams, who live in Boise, Idaho. The Williams lone Derby starter was Rousing Sermon, who finished eighth in the 2012 “Run for the Roses.” Larry Williams is the founder of the Idaho Timber Corp., which operates facilities in nine states. The couple owns Tree Top Ranches – based in Idaho and Oregon - and raise both cattle and horses.
Pedigree: Tamarando is from the second-to-last crop of 1993 champion older male Bertrando, one of the top California-based sires for more than 15 years with 58 stakes winners from 546 career winners through Feb. 16. Tamarando joined Officer, Unfurl the Flag, Bilo and Karelian as Bertrando’s fifth Grade 1 winner when he won the Del Mar Futurity. Bertrando was at his best as a racehorse using his potent speed to establish a clear early lead in longer races before putting his opposition away as he did in winning the Grade 1 Norfolk Stakes at 1 1/16 miles as a 2-year-old and the 1 ¼-mile Pacific Classic Stakes and 1 1/8-mile Woodward Stakes, both Grade 1s, during his championship 4-year-old season. He’s been more versatile as a sire with a mix of elite sprinters and juveniles, talented turf runners and solid two-turn horses on the main track.
TAMARANDO AFTER WINNING THE DEL MAR FUTURITY IN 2013
Photo by Benoit & Associates
At first glance, I pegged Tamarando as a sprinter but digging deeper into his pedigree I was probably far too quick to judge based on the fact that he is a half-brother (same dam [mother], different sire [father]) to stakes-winning sprinters Luckarack and U’narack. Tamarando’s dam, Tamarack Bay, won at 1 1/8 miles on the main track at Arlington Park and finished second in a 1 ½-mile stakes race on the grass. His second dam (maternal grandmother), Gee Toto, never won a race longer than 6 ½ furlongs, but his third dam (maternal great-grandmother), Six Months Long, won twice at 1 1/16 miles. Six Months Long, by breed-shaping sire Northern Dancer, developed into a very nice broodmare and adds a nice dose of class to this pedigree as her descendants include Group or Grade 1 winners No Nay Never and So Many Ways and Group or Grade 2 winners Half a Year, Winning Pact and Event of the Year.
I’m still not entirely sure what to make of Tamarando, but it looks like he’s here to stay on the Derby trail and I definitely am eager to see what he does next.