The horses that ran one-two-three in the California Derby on January 16 will meet again Saturday in the $150,000 El Camino Real Derby (G3) at Golden Gate Fields. Ten three-year-olds are signed up for the 29th running of Northern California's premier steppingstone to the Triple Crown events.
RANGER HEARTLEY (Lost Soldier) won the 1 1/16-miles California Derby by three-quarters of a length over CONNEMARA (Giant's Causeway), who took second by a neck over THOMAS BAINES (Johannesburg). That trio, along with California Derby fifth-place finisher OUR MINESWEEPER (Cause Ur Mine), will renew their rivalry in the 1 1/8-mile contest over Tapeta.
The John Sadler-trained Ranger Heartley has won three of his last four races. The Kentucky-bred is owned by musician Herb Albert (Herb Albert & the Tijuana Brass) and his brother, David Albert.
Connemara, who hails from the mighty Todd Pletcher stable, suffered his first loss in the California Derby. The chestnut colt made a winning debut at Turfway Park in Kentucky on October 4 and then captured an allowance at Santa Anita on November 4. Hall of Fame jockey Russell Baze, who picked up the mount in in the California Derby, will stick with him in the El Camino Real Derby.
Thomas Baines, who broke his maiden at Wolverhampton, England, last September, finished third in the Eddie Logan S. at Santa Anita in his second start stateside and offered a good late rally last time for the show spot in the California Derby. Doug O'Neill trains and Tyler Baze will be in to ride the Kentucky-bred gelding.
POSSE POWER (Posse) will make his stakes debut on Saturday following a pair of wins over maiden special weight and allowance/optional claiming rivals at Golden Gate Fields. The Frank Lucarelli trainee will retain the services of Leslie Mawing. English import JAIRZIHNO (GB) (Royal Applause [GB]) will step up to face stakes rivals after finishing third in his U.S. debut versus allowance foes at Santa Anita on February 3. Brice Blanc will be up for conditioner Simon Callaghan.
Fans attending Golden Gate Fields Saturday will receive a free El Camino Real Derby T-shirt that features the colorful silks of previous winners of the race.