Historically speaking, the profile of a typical El Camino Real Derby winner is not what you might expect at first glance.
Held at 1 1/8 miles of the synthetic Tapeta Footings surface at Golden Gate Fields, it seems logical to assume that horses with proven form at Golden Gate Fields (or other tracks with synthetic racing surfaces) would hold an advantage. But in recent years, the majority of El Camino Real Derby winners have actually been experienced turf horses shipping up from Southern California, where they had been facing much tougher competition than typically found at Golden Gate Fields.
I hope that trend holds up in Saturday’s renewal of the race, which offers a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Preakness Stakes, plus 10 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve qualification points to the winner. Unfortunately, with a huge field of 13 starters, there are plenty of horses that match the ideal profile of an El Camino Real Derby winner, and narrowing down the contenders is easier said than done.
The obvious choice would be #2 King of Speed, a two-time stakes winner going a mile on turf at Santa Anita and Del Mar. Trained by Jeff Bonde, who won the 2015 El Camino Real Derby with Metaboss, King of Speed has a nice turn-of-foot and might not be bet too heavily since his recent form has been muddied by a couple of defeats by double-digit lengths. I’m willing to forgive them both. In the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, King of Speed was facing vastly tougher competition while racing on a yielding turf course that he probably didn’t care for, while his last-place finish in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity came on dirt. The drop in class and the switch to Tapeta could be all King of Speed needs to rebound.
That said, I’m even more interested in #7 Eagle Song, who has yet to win a race in North America. This No Nay Never colt began his career in Ireland, where he lost his first six starts before tackling the synthetic track at Dundalk and winning two straight.
Eagle Song subsequently was brought to California and transferred to the care of Mark Glatt, for whom the colt finished a decent fourth in an allowance sprint on the downhill turf course at Santa Anita in January. Three weeks later, he stretched out to a mile and produced an improved rally to secure the runner-up spot in another allowance race, beaten by only 1 ¼ lengths despite being compromised by a slow early pace. Notably, Eagle Song ran the final quarter-mile in about 23 1/5 seconds, a sharp fraction that suggests he has the necessary turn of foot to be competitive in the El Camino Real Derby. If he takes to the Tapeta synthetic surface — and I see no reason why he shouldn’t — we could see a career-best effort from Eagle Song.
Among the locals, #4 Anothertwistafate seems like a clear standout. He’s 2-for-2 on the local main track, having broken his maiden by four lengths (defeating the next-out winners Shadrack and Classy Chasie) before following up with a five-length win in allowance race. The El Camino Real Derby isn’t exactly packed with speed horses, so Anothertwistafate’s front-running style could allow him to secure a clear early lead and possibly carry it a long way. His sire, Scat Daddy, already has sired two winners of the El Camino Real Derby, and Anothertwistafate will have Juan Hernandez, one of the top jockeys at Golden Gate Fields, in the saddle.
Here’s how I would play the race:
$8 to win on #7 Eagle Song
$2 exacta box: 2,4,7 ($12)
Good luck, and enjoy the race!