Three years ago, a talented filly named Paved rallied to defeat male rivals in the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields. With a sharp burst of speed from just off the pace, Paved cruised home on top by 1 1/4 lengths.
Will history repeat itself in the 2021 El Camino Real Derby? Saturday’s renewal of the 1 1/8-mile Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve prep race has drawn nine entries, including a filly—#7 Javanica—with a big chance to win the $100,000 race.
Of course, any El Camino Real Derby analysis must begin with a mention of the capable bay colt #9 Rombauer, the 8-5 morning-line favorite after competing against elite competition as a 2-year-old. Trained by Michael McCarthy (who coincidentally conditioned Paved), Rombauer began his career on turf, rallying to victory in a one-mile maiden race at Del Mar before finishing sixth with a troubled journey in the Del Mar Juvenile Turf Stakes.
But then Rombauer switched to dirt, and his form improved rapidly. After charging hard to finish second in the Grade 1 American Pharoah Stakes, Rombauer ran a solid race in the Grade 1 TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, rallying from behind a fast pace to finish fifth in a large field.
These accomplishments stamp Rombauer as the horse to beat in the El Camino Real Derby, especially with Golden Gate’s leading jockey Kyle Frey named to ride. But can Rombauer handle switching from dirt to the synthetic Tapeta Footings track at Golden Gate Fields? Typically, turf horses are more likely than dirt runners to thrive on synthetic tracks, so the fact Rombauer has done his best racing on dirt is a bit concerning.
That’s why Javanica is so appealing as a win candidate. A Godolphin homebred trained by Eoin Harty, Javanica is a half-sister to the versatile filly Antoinette, whose biggest victory to date came in the Saratoga Oaks on grass.
Javanica herself has already shown significant promise on multiple surfaces. After breaking her maiden running a mile on grass, Javanica ran a game race in the Glorious Song Stakes on the Woodbine Tapeta main track, rallying after a troubled start to finish second behind Longines Kentucky Oaks contender Souper Sensational.
Back on turf, Javanica continued to display sharp form during the final months of 2020. In the Grade 3 Jimmy Durante Stakes at Del Mar, she rallied fast to finish second behind the formidable East Coast shipper Fluffy Socks. Then in the Blue Norther Stakes at Santa Anita, Javanica tracked the pace from midpack before settling for second again, beaten less than a length by Jimmy Durante third-place runner Quattroelle.
Javanica’s pedigree suggests she’ll relish every inch of the El Camino Real Derby’s 1 1/8-mile distance. Antoinette’s signature victory came at 1 3/16 miles, and Javanica’s sire, Medaglia d’Oro, is a solid source of stamina. Her off-the-pace running style is also a good fit for the El Camino Real Derby, considering the race has been dominated almost exclusively by late runners since its first running at Golden Gate Fields in 2009.
In short, I’m confident Javanica can vie for victory on Saturday. If Rombauer struggles while switching surfaces, Javanica—with her fine form and proven experience over Tapeta—can steal the show at a fair price.
For exotic wagers like the exacta and trifecta, #5 Petruchio (3-1) also warrants support. A son of two-time leading sire Into Mischief, Petruchio hasn’t finished worse than third in five starts on both dirt and turf. He’s been particularly effective since stretching out in distance and adding blinkers, breaking his maiden racing a mile on turf at Del Mar before finishing third in the Grade 2 Los Alamitos Futurity on dirt.
The latter effort was noteworthy because Petruchio closed ground gamely to finish just 3 1/2 lengths behind the multiple Grade 1-place Spielberg and the exciting maiden winner The Great One. Petruchio’s encouraging form on turf suggests the switch to Tapeta won’t be a major issue, and his tactical speed—coupled with the ability to rate off the pace—should ensure he receives a clean trip.
So how should we bet the El Camino Real Derby? A simple win bet on Javanica is an option for handicappers betting on small budgets. But players with more capital to spend can aim for bigger payoffs with exacta and/or trifecta tickets, playing Javanica on top while emphasizing Rombauer and Petruchio underneath.
Wagering Strategy on a $10 Budget
$10 to win on #7 Javanica
What to say at the betting window: Golden Gate Fields, 8th race, $10 to win on 7
Wagering Strategy on a $25 Budget
$15 to win on #7 Javanica
What to say at the betting window: Golden Gate Fields, 8th race, $15 to win on 7
$5 exacta: 7 with 5,9 ($10)
What to say at the betting window: Golden Gate Fields, 8th race, $5 exacta 7 with 5,9
Wagering Strategy on a $50 Budget
$20 to win on #7 Javanica
What to say at the betting window: Golden Gate Fields, 8th race, $20 to win on 7
$6 exacta: 7 with 5,9 ($12)
What to say at the betting window: Golden Gate Fields, 8th race, $6 exacta 7 with 5,9
$3 trifecta: 7 with 5,9 with 2,5,6,9 ($18)
What to say at the betting window: Golden Gate Fields, 8th race, $3 trifecta 7 with 5,9 with 2,5,6,9
Good luck, and enjoy the race!