Seven sophomores have been entered in Saturday's $200,000 El Camino Real Derby (G3) at Golden Gate Fields, but all eyes will be on CashCall Futurity (G1) hero COMMA TO THE TOP (Bwana Charlie). The Peter Miller trainee makes his return, and three-year-old bow, in the 1 1/8-mile Tapeta test riding a five-race win streak that dates back to when he captured an allowance over the track in October.
Comma to the Top is one of the West Coast stars hoping to head east for the Kentucky Derby (G1) in May, but first has to prove he's carried his juvenile form into 2011. The bay gelding took a while to get started, and didn't really impress early on after missing by a head in a $40,000 maiden claimer at Hollywood Park. He was sixth next out against maiden special weight company back at the venue, but the light must have come on at some point between that June 12 race and his Del Mar debut on July 22.
Comma to the Top dominated seven rivals by 8 3/4 lengths in that $50,000 maiden claimer at Del Mar, but then regressed back to his prior form when well-beaten and unplaced in his next two starts in the Best Pal S. (G2) and Del Mar Futurity (G1). Miller took his charge to Golden Gate Fields and stepped him back down into easier company in an attempt to get another win. The strategy worked as Comma to the Top captured a pair of allowances by a total of 10 lengths.
Miller gave his pupil another shot at black-type competition and Comma to the Top responded with a 6 1/4-length score in the Real Quiet S. at Hollywood Park. He tried a surface switch from all-weather to turf in the Generous S. (G3), and scored by 1 3/4 lengths on that occasion.
Comma to the Top rounded out his three-year-old campaign with an eventful CashCall Futurity, as he held up the race nearly 30 minutes after suffering a wardrobe (i.e. shoe) malfunction in the paddock. The race itself was no real challenge to the gelding, as he crossed under the wire a 1 3/4-length winner in a downpour. Corey Nakatani has been aboard for his last three races and will try to keep the streak going in the El Camino Real Derby.
Though experience over the Tapeta can only help his chances, Comma to the Top won't be able to use that as an edge in Saturday's race. POSITIVE RESPONSE (Pomeroy), JAKESAM (Smoke Glacken) and BLUEGRASS REWARD (Good Reward) finished in that order in the January 15 California Derby at Golden Gate Fields and each one will be looking to dethrone the presumptive winner.
Positive Response began his career in Canada and was purchased by trainer Bill Morey for $75,000 after he broke his maiden in his second start at Woodbine. He could only manage a fourth-placing in his first try south of the border, but stepped up his game to take an allowance by 3 1/2 lengths in November. The bay gelding added a six-length victory in the Gold Rush S. to his resume before running to his favorite status in the Cal Derby, scoring by 2 3/4 lengths. Like Comma to the Top, Positive Response brings a win streak into the El Camino Real Derby and will attempt to stamp his own ticket to Kentucky with a win here under Julien Couton.
Jakesam was a well-beaten fifth to Comma to the Top in the Real Quiet S. in November, but took a step forward next time off a slight break to romp in an allowance at Golden Gate Fields by 6 1/2 lengths. His runner-up effort in the Cal Derby was impressive considering the gray colt battled for the early lead through quick fractions and still held off the closing Bluegrass Reward in the lane. Jakesam hails from the barn of Jerry Hollendorfer, who has saddled a record five El Camino Real Derby winners, and will have Frank Alvarado aboard.
Bluegrass Reward is hoping to turn the tables on Positive Response and Jakesam but, with only two wins against lesser company under his girth, will have to run a career-best to succeed.
SILVER MEDALLION (Badge of Silver) gets the services of leading rider Russell Baze in his corner and will hold the distinction of being trainer Steve Asmussen's first starter at Golden Gate Fields when he breaks from the gate. However, the bay three-year-old was well-beaten in his only attempt on a synthetic track, running seventh in the Breeders' Futurity (G1) on Keeneland's Polytrack. Silver Medallion exits a win in the Eddie Logan S. on the turf, over which he's made four of his five lifetime starts, and will go for two stakes in a row in his Tapeta bow.
Rounding out the El Camino Real Derby field are last-out maiden winner FORMULA GOLD (Formal Gold) and Sham S. (G3) third ANTHONY'S CROSS (Indian Charlie). Both Comma to the Top and Anthony's Cross are cross-entered to the Robert B. Lewis S. (G2) at Santa Anita.