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It was the two out-of-town shippers, Blackadder and Mackinnon, that invaded the Bay Area and stole the show Feb. 12 in Golden Gate Fields’ signature event for 3-year-olds, the $100,000 El Camino Real Derby.
Trainer Bob Baffert took home his third El Camino Real trophy when the lightly-raced Blackadder blitzed by slow-starting Mackinnon in deep stretch by a neck.
An official qualifier on the Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, the El Camino Real Derby, run over 1 1/8-miles on the synthetic Tapeta surface, offers the victor an automatic berth to the Grade 1 Preakness Stakes. Last year, the status of the El Camino Real Derby rose to national prominence when its winner Rombauer used the race as a springboard to a victory in the second jewel of the Triple Crown.
A field of eleven sophomores with Derby and Preakness dreams lined up for Saturday’s race, with ERJ Racing, Madaket Stables, and Dave Kenney's Mackinnon, leaving the starting gate as the overwhelming 3-5 favorite. Mackinnon, a two-time stakes winner and third in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf on the grass for trainer Doug O'Neill, had recently finished fourth to Newgrange in the Jan. 1 Grade 3 Sham Stakes.
The second choice was Blackadder, one of just many talented 3-year-olds Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has secured in his arsenal. Blackadder, owned in partnership by SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Robert E. Masterson, Stonestreet Stables, Jay Schoenfarber, Waves Edge Capital, Catherine Donovan, Golconda Stable, and Siena Farm, stepped up to stakes company after landing an off-the-turf maiden special weight contest in his third career start at Santa Anita Park Dec. 26.
“Bob told me I’d have to earn this ride to win it because (Blackadder) can be a bit lazy,” said Edwin Maldonado, who took a flight up from his Southern California base to ride Blackadder for the first time.
Baffert and Maldonado teamed up last week to capture the Feb. 5 Grade 2 Santa Monica Stakes with Merneith.
Blackadder was in no rush early and was content to race in mid-pack behind opening splits of :23.46 and :47.77 down the backstretch. Advancing into striking position as the field sprinted into the bend, the son of Quality Road was blocked behind a wall of horses as the field turned for home, as was Mackinnon. However, while jockey Abel Cedillo steered Mackinnon wide for the stretch drive, Blackadder and Maldonado waited a few strides longer in hopes of finding an opening. Spotting daylight in the final eighth, Blackadder split horses under strong encouragement from Maldonado and stormed after new race leader Mackinnon, besting that foe nearing the wire.
“I had been looking at the races all day and everything has been speed, speed, speed and I know this horse comes off the pace,” said Maldonado. “I just stuck to my game plan to stay last and wait on the fence, wait, wait, wait and I got the opening. I got through and he did it today.”
Blackadder ($3.80) ran the 1 1/8-miles in 1:50.34. Mackinnon's stablemate, Del Mo, completed the Southern California trifecta when collecting third.
Bred in Kentucky by Stone Farm, Blackadder is out of the Pulpit mare Chapel, making him a full brother to stakes winner and graded stakes-placed Gingham. Chapel is also the dam of an unraced Hard Spun juvenile colt named Graphene Cossock. She was bred back to Quality Road for 2022.
Blackadder was acquired by Madaket, SF Racing, and Starlight Racing for $620,000 as a yearling at the 2020 Keeneland September Sale from the Stone Farm consignment.
Although the colt earned a free ride ticket to the May 21 Grade 1 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course, he was ineligible to collect the first prize of 10 qualifying points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby points due to Baffert's suspension from racing at Churchill Downs Inc. racetracks through mid-2023 for medication violations.