Azul Coast handles unfamiliar footing in El Camino Real Derby

Feb 16, 2020 J. Keeler Johnson/

A switch from dirt to Tapeta proved to be no obstacle for Azul Coast, who took to the synthetic track at Golden Gate Fields like a duck to water when forging to victory in Saturday’s $100,000 El Camino Real Derby.

Favored at 13-10 off a runner-up finish in the Jan. 4 Sham (G3) at Santa Anita, Azul Coast showed plenty of grit on his way to the winner’s circle. The son of Super Saver was always in a good position under jockey Rafael Bejarano, eyeing the leaders from fourth place as the well-bet duo of Czechmight and Sacred Rider raced in tandem through modest fractions of :24.15, :49.13, and 1:14.14.

But when the real running began, Azul Coast had to dig deep. Thoroughly surrounded by charging rivals at the top of the stretch, Azul Coast faced a stiff test and was not found wanting. Down the Golden Gate Fields homestretch, it was Azul Coast’s evidently abundant stamina that won the day.

Taking aim at Czechmight, Azul Coast gradually ground his way into contention, then sprinted the final furlong in :12.09 to edge clear of the skirmish. American Farmer and Indian Peak tried their best to run down the favorite, but Azul Coast was resilient, crossing the wire 1 1/4 lengths clear in the time of 1:51.58 for 1 1/8 miles.

“I figured he would get a good trip,” Bejarano told Golden Gate Fields. “He was going well the entire time under me and he showed me a real nice kick when (American Farmer) tried to come get us at the sixteenth pole.”

With the exception of Azul Coast, the El Camino Real Derby was dominated by late runners. In addition to American Farmer and Indian Peak, Wine and Whiskey and The Stiff came charging late to round out the top five. Sacred Rider, Ajourneytofreedom, Czechmight, Final Final, Mysterious Stones, and Praise Loudly completed the order of finish.

Winning the El Camino Real Derby secured Azul Coast 10 qualification points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, boosting his overall total to 14 points and placing him 11th on the leaderboard. For Azul Coast’s Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, the victory marked only his second success in the El Camino Real Derby, following Cavonnier’s narrow victory in 1996.

Bred by SF Racing and owned by the partnership of Karl Watson, Mike Pegram, and Paul Weitman, Azul Coast sold for $320,000 as a yearling and is steadily earning back his purchase price. With two victories from three starts, Azul Coast has accumulated $104,000 while cementing his status as an improving player on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.

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