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Zeewat, Manando head El Camino Real Derby
Four of the nine entrants in Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields have been nominated to the Triple Crown series, and thus are hoping to add the 10 points the race provides to the winner toward their Kentucky Derby account under the new eligibility system of the Run for the Roses. The 1 1/8-mile race also features a rematch between the top-two finishers from the January 12 California Derby.
Zeewat got the best of his rivals in that 1 1/16-mile contest and brings a 2-0-1 mark from three starts on Golden Gates' synthetic Tapeta into the El Camino Real Derby. The Harlan's Holiday three-year-old, who also captured the Gold Rush on the all-weather surface, has some dirt experience under his girth as well.
The Jerry Hollendorfer pupil debuted on Santa Rosa's main track, breaking his maiden by seven lengths while going 5 1/2 furlongs prior to a 2 1/2-length score in the six-furlong Cavonnier Juvenile.
Zeewat will be trying nine furlongs for the first time in the El Camino Real Derby, but gets the services of Hall of Famer Russell Baze in the saddle to further his chances.
Wildcat Moon tried to steal the California Derby on the front end, but couldn't hold off Zeewat's run in the stretch. The Jeff Bonde trainee just broke his maiden going 5 1/2 furlongs two prior and next out scored an optional claiming win over the synthetic. The chestnut son of D'wildcat got a jockey switch to Kyle Frey for his California Derby effort, and retains that rider in his graded debut.
Manando and Carving will likely vie for favoritism with Zeewat on Saturday. The former was a 5 1/4-length, gate-to-wire winner of his maiden on Hollywood Park's synthetic Cushion Track December 13, and attempted those same tactics in the Grade 3 Sham next out in early January. The Bluegrass Cat colt was caught in the stretch, winding up third for trainer Bob Baffert, and will be tough in this spot under Aaron Gryder if he takes to the Tapeta.
Carving, a dark bay son of Any Given Saturday, won the Real Quiet on Hollywood's Cushion Track in early November, and will be making his three-year-old bow here off a subpar sixth-placing in the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity in mid-December. The Baffert charge had jockey Martin Garcia aboard for those races, but will get Victor Espinoza in the irons this time around.
Rush In and Nina's Dragon could also offer up a challenge in the El Camino Real Derby, while Counting Days, North Pacific and Dice Flavor complete the field.