Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 10/28/14
I started this week’s Horse Racing’s Race of the Week, the 2013 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields in California where Mandando has been installed as the 9/5 morning line favorite, in the paddock of the gorgeous Gulfstream Park and finished it 36,000 feet over Atlanta, Georgia. If you’ve never been there and you’re a Horse Racing fan, I implore you to go. The track is regal, the weather is amazing and it’s a hop, skip and a jump away from Hialeah, the once “place to be” in the horse racing world and currently in the midst of an enormous comeback. (More on that another day). For now, since I’m not using my computer and my ears won’t stop popping, I’ll need to really focus on our key race. The El Camino Real Derby, which drew a field off 9 this year, hasn’t really had a huge impact on the Triple Crown races over the years but the 1 1/8 miles event has had its share of good horses win it. First run in 1982, the lists of winners include Tank’s Prospect (1985), Snow Chief (1986), Ruhlmann (1988), Casual Lies (1992), Tabasco Cat (1994), and Event of the Year (1998). But since then, there has been a bit of a dry spell as none of the next 14 winners went on to accomplish all that much. Actually, what stands out the most over the past few years is that jockey Russell Baze has won 6 of the last 8 runnings.   Golden Gate Fields – Saturday, February 16, 2013 Race 8 – 4:22 PM El Camino Real Derby (Grade: 3) Purse $200,000. For Three Year Olds One And One Eighth Miles. PP Horse   A/S Med Jockey Wgt Trainer 1 Wildcat Moon 3/C L K Frey 121 J Bonde 2 Rush In 3/G L J J Hernandez 121 W E Morey 3 Counting Days 3/G L D Carr 121 C Gaines 4 Manando 3/C L A T Gryder 121 B Baffert 5 Zeewat 3/C L R A Baze 121 J Hollendorfer 6 Nina’s Dragon 3/C L J Couton 121 L C Mason 7 North Pacific 3/C L F T Alvarado 121 L Kasmersk 8 Carving 3/C L V Espinoza 121 B Baffert 9 Dice Flavor 3/C J Valdivia, Jr. 121 P Gallagher   Analysis   1) Zeewat- plenty of stakes experience for this bay colt by Harlan’s’ Holiday as he’s already run in 5 stakes races while winning 3 of them. Of those 3 stakes wins, 2 of them came over this very track (in his last two races) with one coming from off the pace while the other came from going wire to wire, and if you’re like me (and hopefully you aren’t) you have to like the versatility. Distance, pace scenario and (obviously) surface won’t be an issue for this horse, who is 4 for 6 overall in his career….looks best.   2) Manando- Bob Baffert trained colt by Bluegrass Cat broke his maiden (2 races back) in very impressive fashion (led all the way and “drew clear” by 5 lengths down the stretch). He then came back and led to deep stretch in the Sham Stakes before being overhauled by the talented Goldencents (and Den’s Legacy) in yet another good performance. Speedster should be the early pacemaker and might be long gone if allowed to lope along on an uncontested early lead. I just don’t think he will being there are horses in here who appear like they will keep him honest early.    3) Wildcat Moon-by good looking sprinter D’Wildcat, he set a very slow pace and was beaten just ½ a length behind the top choice in his last (The California Derby). I can’t see him getting away with that slow of a pace again on Saturday afternoon but even if he does; he’s already shown he will struggle with Zeewat. Never off the board in now 8 lifetime starts (8-2-5-1) and looks best of the rest to me.   Honorable Mention: Rush In hasn’t run a bad race in 4 career starts and did finish within shouting distance of Zeewat back in the first week of December. The same goes for Nina’s Dragon (3-1-0-2 lifetime) and, although he steps up in company in this race, he did show a lot of heart in that last race when he “fought back” in deep stretch to finish third (beaten just a length) behind another possible Kentucky Derby contender Greenley’s Awesome….longshot possibility? Record: 2013: 2-6= 33% 2012: 24-74= 32%       Little Bets N’ Pieces **** Newly crowned 2012 three year old champion filly Questing has been retired.  The daughter of the very handsome Hard Spun won the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks and the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga last season which pretty much clinched the championship for her. The speedster had a minor chip removed from a hind ankle earlier this winter, but has developed a case of pneumonia while preparing for a return to training. The sickness proved to be too stuborn. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who called Questing’s nine length victory in the Alabama Stakes “one of the most impressive performances I have ever witnessed”, said she will be bred to Bernardini.     **** Turf monster Point of Entry gunned down 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom in mid-stretch to win the $300,000 Kitten’s Joy  Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap last weekend to pick up his fourth Grade: 1 victory The son of Dynaformer, who was coming  off a runner-up finish to Little Mike in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, scored  by 1 1/4 lengths in the 1 1/8-mile race. At the start, Salto set easy early fractions of  :25.0  and :50.2  while  Point of Entry stalked the pace three wide. But jockey Joel Rosario, who was riding his mount for the first time, sent Animal Kingdom quickly up the rail from fifth to reach even terms with Salto leaving the backside through three-quarters in 1:13.1. Many were surprised to see Animal Kingdom move so early, including trainer Graham Motion and myself. “I think more than anything it caught him off guard for him to find himself in front so early,” Motion said. “I think Animal Kingdom was surprised by that. The only thing I was concerned about going into this race was having another rider on him. Somebody who has ridden him and had more confidence on him might have been more patient with him. I think Joel was just anxious with the other riders going slowly and felt they should catch up, which confused the horse a little. Joel made a split-second decision and I’m not going to second guess him for it. If he won he would have looked like a hero.” “I know Animal Kingdom well,” winning jockey John Velazquez said. “If (Rosario) would have waited behind me he probably would have beaten me from the quarter pole home. He made a move so big that he changed his style to my horse’s style, so it worked out to my advantage. I had my horse running so much by the time we got to the 3/16 pole my horse got his momentum going. It worked out for us.” “It was quite a race,” Point of Entry’s trainer Shug McGaughey said. “We had our tactics. I figured (Salto) would go to the lead and I was hoping we’d break good and be laying second to him without pressing too much and try to make Animal Kingdom commit a little early. It was kind of fun to watch, even though I was leaning a little bit trying to get him in front going around the turn. We’re very pleased the way he came back and to win a grade I going a mile and an eighth is another feather in his cap.” It was Animal Kingdom’s last start in the US as he will now point to the (March 30) Dubai World Cup at Meydan. A possible start at Royal Ascot in England before slated his retirement to Arrowfield Stud in Australia. “He was beaten by a very good horse under very awkward circumstances,” Motion added. “I was a little concerned that maybe he got tired, but actually it looked like he galloped out with the winner.” Point of Entry is nominated to the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic (on the same night as the Dubai World Cup), but would have to be nominated for the race, a 1 ¼ (for a $10,000 fee) by Feb. 13. “We’ll see,” McGaughey said on a possible trip to Dubai.  ”I’ll get my folks together and get the people to talk to me, and we’ll go from there.”   **** Lightly raced Graydar, who went off at 5-1 odds at postime, pulled the upset in last weekends $500,000 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park. Graydar, who is still eligible for a second-level allowance race, set solid early fractions (:23, :46.4, 1:10.2. 1:35.1)  before digging in down the stretch to hold off a late running Bourbon Courage. Take Charge Indy finished third while 2-1 betting favorite Flat Out finishing fourth. “He ran an enormous race,” trainer Todd Pletcher said of the winner who completed the 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.1. “We weren’t really sure what the pace scenario was. We figured we’d be stalking. Edgar and I talked about it and figured that was Plan A.  But the last thing I said leaving the paddock was ‘If it works about and you’re there…don’t take it away.’ He beat Ultimate Eagle to the turn… he was laying down serious racehorse fractions. It wasn’t like he was walking the dog. He got into a nice, comfortable rhythm. “He broke nice and was very relaxed and happy in the front,” winning jockey Edgar Prado said. “He was moving along, but that’s the way he runs. We didn’t need to go head-to-head with anyone, so we sat right off the lead. Anytime I asked him to pick it up he gave me more so I was very happy with him. I was just hoping he’d be able to hold on to the lead.” “You see horses win grade I races early in their careers, like 2-year-olds, with not very many starts,” Pletcher added. “But I’d say it’s extremely rare for a horse in his fourth lifetime start against seasoned horses like this to be able to do it. It’s a real tribute to the horse. It was fun for us. For these connections we lost a tough head-bob with Mission Impazible in this race (in 2012). It’s sweet to get one for them the next year.”     **** Eblouissante, a 4-year-old half-sister to 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta, continues to make progress from a foot bruise she suffered last month.  Trainer John Shirreffs said it’s too early to know for sure whether she will be able to make the $300,000 Santa Margarita Invitational March 16. The bruise was discovered following her victory in a Jan. 17 allowance/optional claimer at Santa Anita. “She’s been galloping for about a week,” Shirreffs said. “It’s like the story about the lion with the splinter in his foot. Here is this big king of the jungle and he was so happy once they took that little splinter out. “We had been putting vet wrap on her with padding for her gallops. Today, we decided to remove the bandage before her gallop, and as soon as we took it off, she was like, ‘Oh, I’m fine; let’s go.’ She went out there and galloped much stronger and had more extension to her gait, and was bright, alert, and happy. Just like the lion, she was back breathing fire. “Her gallop today was much, much better, but we’ll have to wait to see how she works before we have an idea whether she can make the Santa Margarita.”     **** 2009 Horse of the Year and super filly Rachel Alexandra is fighting for her life after suffering from complications after giving birth to a Bernardini filly this past week. The now 7 year old mare, with the upside down exclamation point white marking running down her nose, gave birth to a 140 lb filly this past Tuesday but started having problem almost right afterward. It was discovered on Wednesday that the speedy filly, who won the prestigious Kentucky Oaks as well as 2 other races by 20 lenghts, had a tear in her small intestine which doctors believe originated from the birth. She was immediately sent to Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Ky and underwent surgery to repair the issue. A massive loss of blood and an infection now have Rachel Alexandra physically struggling. When asked about the situation and can the mare recover, equine internal specialist Bonnie Barr said “Right now, it’s too early to tell…we’ll have to see how she responds to treatment and take it one day at a time” The treatment consists of intravenous anti-biotics, fluids and anti-inflammatories. “We are solely focused on Rachel’s comfort level at this point” said owner Barbara Banke. “She is showing the same strength and courage she showed when she was on the track. Our hearts are broken by the turn of events and we ask you to send your thoughts and prayers for her now.” The filly she gave birth to is “healthy and doing very well” Banke added.      

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