Kentucky Derby Preview Series – The El Camino Real Derby – By Eric Solomon

The first North American Derby Points race contested over a synthetic track is the $100K El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields on Saturday. Not only does this race offer 10 points toward entry in the Kentucky Derby to the winner, but he also gets a guaranteed spot in the starting gate in the Preakness two weeks later. Rombauer was the winner of this race last year and he went on to win the Preakness. This year’s edition features a field of 11 headed by two-time turf stakes winner, Mackinnon. This is a 1 Mile and ⅛ contest where the two shortest prices on the morning line have never run on a synthetic surface.

 

 

Golden Gate Fields Saturday 2/12/22, Race 8 : The El Camino Real Derby

17 Total Derby points (10/4/2/1)

1 – Stormy Samurai (8-1 ML): He’s been sprinting exclusively in four career starts over this track, winning twice. He’s been sharp in his two wins, but had trouble breaking in his two losses. I’m not as worried about the break at this distance, but it is a big jump to go from six furlongs to nine furlongs, and doing so when making your stakes debut. He does have a two turn pedigree and Jack Steiner has done very well at this meet, winning with 7 of 17 starters thus far. He’s not impossible, but I prefer others. 

2 – Mackinnon (8-5 ML, 100-1 Circa): The morning line favorite comes in this race with clearly the strongest resume. He’s won two stakes races on the turf and was a decent third in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. He tried dirt in the Grade 3 Sham and finished 4th that day, beaten by Newgrange, who came back to win the Southwest Stakes in his next start. His effort wasn’t great on the main track, but Newgrange had a clear pace advantage and proved he’s the better dirt horse at the moment. There is still the question about whether or not he’ll take to the synthetic course, so this race is a bit of an experiment. A strong effort here could lead to a start in the Jeff Ruby Steaks in April on the Tapeta at Turfway, which would keep the Derby in play. A dull effort would likely lead him back to the turf. It is encouraging that he has run credible efforts on both dirt and turf, so he certainly could be the type of horse that can run on any surface. He’s going to be the one to beat, but he’s no lock, and the value will likely be low. 

3 – Unraptured (10-1 ML): He passed the two turn test last out, when clearing the N1X level in a one mile contest on this oval. He’s a half length shy of being undefeated in three career starts, and that lone loss came on the grass at five furlongs. He’s never lost on this course, but faces his toughest challenge yet. His speed figures are low, but he’s won by open lengths in those losses, so I do think he has some upside here, while also offering a little value. He’s the best of the regular locals, but I think he might be better to use underneath. 

4 – Blackadder (7-2 ML): Bob Baffert doesn’t send too many horses here, so it’s interesting to see him send this son of Quality Road here. He broke his maiden last out in an off the turf maiden special weight at Santa Anita. He’s been okay on dirt, and his connections clearly wanted to try him on grass, so I understand the move to send him here. However, I feel like because of the Baffert factor, he’ll be overbet, in a race where he’s trying a new surface for the first time. I feel like he’s one to play against here regardless of his odds. 

5 – Nuestro Engreído (20-1 ML): He broke his maiden against fellow Cal breds in his ninth career start. That effort was by far the best race in his career two starts ago. He remained in solid form when finishing third while facing open N1X allowance types last out. All ten career starts have been in sprints though and now he makes his first start in stakes company while going two turns for the first time. He’s tough for me to get behind here. 

6 – Boise (9-2 ML): I think he’s a big player in this race, being a stakes winner at two turns on this course. He won his debut in a five furlong turf sprint, but he looked like a horse that wanted to run farther. He ran in a stakes at Del Mar on Breeders’ Cup week, and turned in a strong effort to be 4th, beaten less than a length. He rallied three wide to get up in time to win the Gold Rush Stakes at a mile here in December. His last race in the Eddie Logan was a toss for me, as he really didn’t get a very good trip. That race has proven to be live with the second and third place finishers coming back to win next time out. We know he can handle the track and I believe he’ll get the distance. He seems to be a more viable play at a better price than the Baffert shipper, and I do think he can challenge the favorite.

7 – Dr Pescado (15-1 ML): He’s another stakes winner on synthetic, taking home top honors in the Golden Nugget Stakes on this course while sprinting two starts back. He was wide, but moving well to get into third in the Gold Rush Stakes, finishing 1 and ½ lengths behind Boise that day. At 15-1, he offers more value than others in here, while making his first start as a three year old. I like him underneath and would plan to use him as a B or C on multi-race tickets. 

8 – Meetmeattheclub (50-1 ML): The lone maiden in this field debuted at 5 and ½ furlongs two starts ago while running with a $25K tag. He was third at that distance when moving up into the maiden allowance ranks last time out. I really don’t see anything in his performances or in his pedigree to make me think he’s capable of winning a nine furlong stake race at this point in his career. 

9 – C’Mon Man (15-1 ML): He’s been following the same path as Boise in his last two starts, finishing behind him in both spots. He was beaten three back by Dr Pescado in the Golden Nugget Stakes. He’s been competitive in the synthetic races, but the others that are back again today have been better. In addition, they both have a better post in the gate and are more likely to get a better trip into the first turn. I prefer his rivals again in this race. 

10- Il Bellator (20-1 ML): This is a longshot with a little bit of upside in here. There’s not a ton of early pace signed on for this contest, so I wouldn’t be shocked if Alejandro Gomez was offensive minded on this son of Shackleford. He laid close to the pace in his last start, which was his first at two turns, beating Del Mo going away that day. He has been away since the end of November, but this barn does well with horses running fresh. He has continued to improve with each start, and might be able to get brave if he gets an easy lead. He could be a longshot to use underneath.

11- Del Mo (10-1 ML): He broke his maiden in his fourth career try and his third at two turns last month. Doug O’Neill has had him based here, so he clearly likes the synthetic course. It’s worth noting that he won while being treated with Lasix for the first time last out, but he must run without it today. That’s not a huge concern as his two local efforts without it weren’t bad. However, breaking from the far outside post is less than ideal when facing winners for the first time. I think he’ll go off lower odds than his fair market value, being trained by O’Neill. So at or around 10-1, he’s not for me, as I think Dr Pesacdo, Il Bellator, and to some extent, C’Mon Man are just as good at longer odds. 

The verdict: 6-2-7

Only five of the eleven entered in this race were nominated to the Triple Crown and only one is being offered in the Futures Book at Circa at the moment, so in terms of the Derby, I don’t think we’re looking at a race with a serious contender. Mackinnon is the most accomplished runner in this group, but as a bettor, the question you’ll have to ask yourself is what price is too short of a price to take on this horse trying something new for the first time? For me, 2-1 feels about right, but I’d be surprised if we got that. My guess is that he’ll be closer to even money, which for me is too short. I think Blackadder is also going to take some money at the windows with the Baffert train rolling into Northern California for the first time this year. The attention that will go toward these shippers should create decent value on Boise, who will be my top pick. He had a decent set up in the Gold Rush, but he was rolling late to get the win. Evin Roman rides this course so well, winning with 26% of his starters at this meet, many of those wins coming for leading trainer Jonathon Wong. I would still use Mackinnon as a A horse on the multi-race bets, as this is an important race to decide which path he’ll be on over the next few months. Dr. Pescado intrigues me as one of the longer priced horses that are live in here. He’d be good to use underneath along with Unraptured and Il Bellator.

 

Each week, we’ll have an update on horses and races from the previous week that may produce starters for the 148th Kentucky Derby on May 7th, 2022. Current futures odds from Circa or Caesars-William Hill will be provided as they are available. Feel free to reach out on Twitter @EricSolomon718.

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