Saturday, February 13, 2016

Handicapper's Corner - El Camino Real Derby (G3)

El Camino Real Derby Good Betting Prospect

Only two favorites have won in the last six years, most of the winners paid double digits.

By: Laurie Ross

Since its inception in 1980, seven colts that hit the board in the El Camino Real Derby (G-3) continued successfully along the triple crown trail.  Three of them Gate Dancer, Cavonnier and Charismatic wore the roses.  Snow Chief and Tanks Prospect stood in the Preakness winner’s circle, while Tabasco Cat won the Belmont and Ten Most Wanted placed in the Belmont. 

However, since the change from dirt to Tapeta, none of the starters in the El Camino Real have hit the board in any of the Triple Crown races.  The best placing was by 2009 El Camino Real victor Chocolate Candy, who placed fifth in that year’s Kentucky Derby.  The El Camino Real Derby is the first Kentucky Derby qualifier contested at 1 1/8 miles.

This year, a full field of 14 colts and geldings are scheduled to line up in the starting gate.

The Favorites:
FRANK CONVERSATION (Quality Road - Rushen Heat , by Unusual Heat) won the California Derby going away by 2 ½ lengths.   Trainer Doug O’Neil has never taken home the El Camino Real Derby trophy. The closest he’s come in the last five years was a third place finish with the favorite Handsome Mike, in 2012.  Frank Conversation should handle the stretch out to 1 1/8 miles.  His sire won at the distance multiple times at the highest level. Frank Conversation’s dam placed second in a turf stakes at 1/14 miles, and the colt’s damsire is noted for getting long winded stayers.   The last two horses to pull off the California Derby/El Camino Real were Chocolate Candy in ’09 and Bwana Bull in ’07.

KASSEOPIA (Showcasing (GB) - Dream Again (GB), by Medicean (GB)) hasn’t raced since finishing second to Riker in the Gray Stakes at Woodbine last October. The English-bred gelding should handle the going and the distance, but asking him to do so after a long layoff is asking a lot. Additionally, the last ten winners of the El Camino Real had the benefit of a prep race either at Santa Anita or Golden Gate.

MR. COKER (Candy Ride (ARG) - Our Khrysty, by Newfoundland) enters the El Camino Real with only two starts under his girth and will be facing winners for the first time. He’ll also be going two turns for the first time over a new surface.   If anyone can get the colt to the winner’s circle, it’s the king of Northern California, Jerry Hollendorfer. The trainer has taken home the El Camino Real trophy in four of the last ten editions of the race.  He did so with another son of Candy Ride in 2009.  Mr. Coker’s pedigree is a little light on distance on his distaff side, yet there’s plenty of class there.  His dam is a multiple stakes winner and she’s a half sister to three stakes winners, including G1 winner Bullsbay.  Mr. Coker’s first through fourth dams all own blacktype.   The colt has a tough task ahead of him, but needs to be respected.

Could hit the board:
MARQULA (Coast Guard - Marquet Formula, by Marquetry) circled the field in the California Derby and got up for second.  The colt has hit the board in his last three starts, but always winds up going wide from behind horses.  His only victory was a maiden race where he was up near the lead. Marqula has very little blacktype in his pedigree and appears borderline for the 1 1/8 distance.  Perhaps his running style will make up for it.  Trainer Jeff Bonde won the El Camino Real last year.

ALGENON (Aragorn (IRE) - Alpine Yodel, by Swiss Yodeler) dulled in the early stages of the California Derby, but faded to finish third. The colt has plenty of ability, he’s hit the board in every start, but his only victories were at Stockton and Pleasanton.  Algenon’s dam is a full sister to three blacktype sprinters. Nice colt, maybe he can stick around for the lower exotics.

TUSK  (Tapit - It's Midnight, by Shamardal) is making his second start off of a layoff.  He closed for third, beaten a length for second, in a one mile optional claimer on the Santa Anita turf last time out.  Tusk’s female family is filled with European runners. His dam won a minor stakes in France at a mile and is a half sister to a multiple stakes winner in France. Tapit’s offspring are winning everything in sight and the pretty gray gelding could surprise at long odds.

MANA STRIKE (Papa Clem - Kirkela, by Giant's Causeway) has a good/bad race cycle going on. After winning the one mile Gold Rush, the gelding finished sixth in the California Derby.  There’s some quality on Mana Strike’s female family.  He’s a half to a minor stakes placed sprinter.  Their dam has a 3-1-0-1 record. She’s a half sister to three blacktype earners and there’s some listed blacktype throughout the family. Mana Strike posted a sharp second to last 4F breeze in 47 and change.  He could be a good exotic play, especially if he continues his good/bad/good race cycle.

GIOPRESS  (Gio Ponti - Empiress, by Empire Maker) by a Champion Turf router out of a mare by a Belmont Stakes winner, Giopress should have the stamina to run all day. After a failed attempt on turf in the Eddie Logan, the late maturing colt gets back to Tapeta. This is a colt who should improve with maturity and distance.  He has a very classy pedigree. His dam is a half sister to Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos and three half sisters bore stakes winners or stakes placed runners. His speed figures have improved in every outing at Golden Gate and he has enough speed to be close to the speed.  He could be hanging around at the end while less stoutly bred contenders are backing up.

The rest:
KELLY WITH A TWIST – speed on the rail. Since moving to Golden Gate, he’s hit the board in all three starts, twice in optional claimers and all three times at sprint distances.  Trainer Manuel Calvario is 0-5 with horses stretching out.

TOUCHED BY AUTISM – placed in four maiden races at Golden Gate then he shipped to Santa Anita to win at a mile against statebred maidens.  His owner Johnny Taboada won this race in 2008 with Autism Awareness who won the El Camino Real after finally winning his maiden in his 13th attempt.  The horse paid a shocking $126 to win.

OSCAR DOMINGUEZ (IRE) – Makes his first start in the US and his first start of the year. Won on the Poly in Ireland.  Has recorded one very slow 4F work.

GO LONG – won his last start over the dirt at Santa Anita in a 50K Claiming race. That was his second victory and the second time he’s hit the board in nine lifetime starts. His overall late pace speed figures are good, but is the El Camino Real tougher than a claiming race at Santa Anita?  The colt has a very nice distaff family, his dam is a multiple stakes winner. However, Go Long and his siblings aren’t living up to their breeding.  

SAN DIMAS – Offspring of Hard Spun need time to develop. He won his maiden at a mile here in his last start. San Dimas should handle 1 1/8 miles without difficulty. He’s making his third start off of a layoff, but his speed figures are poor.

 DIPLODOCUS – by Sky Mesa out of a Carson City mare, this colt surprisingly won his maiden on the turf going 1 1/8 miles. That was in his second to last start and the only time that he has hit the board in four lifetime starts. Top Golden Gate jock Russel Baze takes the mount, he’s collected nine El Camino Real trophies.

Pace setters and pressers haven’t fared well in the El Camino Real since the Tapeta was installed.  All seven winners have sat mid-pack or farther back.
The last five winners all invaded from Santa Anita and they either won or placed in their last start, all over the lawn. 

In the last ten years, three California Derby winners and one second place finisher came back to capture the El Camino Real, but none since 2010.  

Two winners jumped from a maiden race to the El Camino Real winners circle. 

Only two favorites have won in the last six years, most of the winners paid double digits.

So, who hit the board in their last race over the lawn at Santa Anita or hit the board in the California Derby?  
#12 FRANK CONVERSATION  - California Derby winner.
#7 MARQULA  - second in the California Derby.
#9 ALGENON – fading third in the California Derby.
#8 TUSK – third on the turf in optional claimer at SA.
#4 MR. COKER – won his maiden at SA, but sprinting on the dirt.
#11 GO LONG – won a high level claiming race at SA, but it was on the dirt.
#3  TOUCHED BY AUTISM – maiden win at SA, but over the dirt. can lightning hit twice?? If it does, a lot of handicappers are going to swear off racing, at least for a day or two. 

#8  TUSK

Handigambling  $100 wager:  With so many horses in the race, we could either get fancy or keep it simple. I like the 8,12, and 7 as my top picks to win/place.  A number of others could fill the bottom spots. This is a good race to key your top three contenders if you want to get fancy and cover all of the bases.

$0.10 Super Box ($36): 8,12,7,13,9,14
$4 Exacta Box ($24) : 8,12,7
$10 Win at 3-1 or higher: #8
$10 Win at 3-1 or higher #12
$10  Win at 3-1 or higher #7
Total bets: $90, $10 left over for a snack.

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