Following the injury to Exit Stage Left, the presumptive favorite for Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 El Camino Real Derby, Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer called up the reserves in the form of Mr. and Mrs. Larry D. Williams' homebred Tamarando, and he saved the day for the barn. With Hall of Famer Russell Baze aboard, Tamarando wore down Dance with Fate by a half-length in the shadow of the wire at Golden Gate Fields.
Tamarando earned 10 points toward the Kentucky Derby, boosting his total to 12, good for fourth on the leaderboard. He also extended the grip that Hollendorfer and Baze have on the El Camino Real Derby recordbook. Baze now owns nine victories in Northern California's premier Kentucky Derby prep, and Hollendorfer increased his trophy haul to six.
Hollendorfer's leading Kentucky Derby candidate remains Shared Belief. But the undefeated champion two-year-old has missed a significant amount of training time due to a quarter-crack, and Tamarando gives Hollendorfer, who is still seeking his first Kentucky Derby win, another arrow in the quiver.
Tamarando and Dance with Fate were replicating their finish from last summer's Del Mar Futurity on Polytrack, where Tamarando got the jump on a troubled Dance with Fate and held on by a half-length. They met again in the September 28 FrontRunner on the dirt at Santa Anita, and Dance with Fate gained revenge by finishing second to Bond Holder, leaving Tamarando back in third. The rivals had gone their separate ways in the interim, but Saturday's rematch, over 1 1/8 miles on the synthetic Tapeta, ended up playing to Tamarando's strengths.
I'll Wrap It Up took command early, carving out fractions of :24 2/5, :49 3/5 and 1:13 4/5. Enterprising, the 6-5 favorite off his closing second to Exit Stage Left in the January 18 California Derby, was well placed in a tracking second. Craftsman stalked just behind from his rail post, while the 7-2 Dance with Fate had to cover more ground after breaking from the outside post 8. Meanwhile, 2-1 second choice Tamarando was anchored in last, in accordance with his deep-closing style.
Rounding the far turn, Enterprising and Dance with Fate both accosted I'll Wrap It Up. Dance with Fate was going best of all, swept to the front in what appeared to be the winning move, and reached the mile mark in 1:39 4/5.
Tamarando, who had commenced a circling move on the turn, was set down in earnest in the stretch, and the dark bay son of Bertrando responded. Leveling off beautifully inside the final furlong, Tamarando looked stronger the farther he went. Dance with Fate tried to stave him off, but Tamarando got up in a final time of 1:51 1/5 and paid $6.60.
Dance with Fate had 2 1/4 lengths to spare over Enterprising. Puppy Manners, Hollendorfer's second string, was along for fourth. Infosec, Icy Ride, Craftsman and I'll Wrap It Up rounded out the order under the wire.
Tamarando's third career stakes victory improved his mark to 10-4-2-3, $625,120. All of his wins have come on synthetic surfaces. After breaking his maiden over Del Mar's Polytrack in his third start, he was pitched straight into Grade 1 company in the Del Mar Futurity, and handled the class hike with aplomb.
Switched to the Santa Anita dirt, Tamarando was a slow-starting third in the aforementioned FrontRunner. Instead of advancing to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, where he could not race on Lasix, he reverted to a restricted stakes, the November 1 Golden State Juvenile for California-bred or -sired runners. Tamarando rallied furiously on the speed-favoring Santa Anita surface, and did well in the circumstances to grab third.
Back on Hollywood's Cushion Track for the November 23 Real Quiet, Tamarando uncorked a last-to-first move to win going away by 3 1/4 lengths. He was no match for stablemate Shared Belief in the December 14 CashCall Futurity, reporting home a distant third. Tamarando wasn't beaten far by runner-up Candy Boy, however, who has since gone on to take last Saturday's Robert B. Lewis.
Tamarando again had little luck at Santa Anita last time in the January 25 California Cup Derby. By the time he raced into the picture, California Chrome was already long gone, en route to a 5 1/2-length conquest. Tamarando gave an honorable pursuit to finish a clear second.
Out of the Grade 3-placed Dehere mare Tamarack Bay, Tamarando is a half-brother to multiple stakes winner Luckarack; U'narack, victorious in the Real Good Deal last August; and stakes-placed Tamarack Smarty.
This is the family of current star No Nay Never, unbeaten winner of the Norfolk at Royal Ascot and the Prix Morny at Deauville last summer; Grade/Group 2 winners Winning Pact and Half a Year; and Grade 1 scorer So Many Ways.
But most interestingly of all, Tamarando comes from the family of Event of the Year, who captured the 1998 El Camino Real Derby for Hollendorfer and Baze. Event of the Year went on to win the Jim Beam at Turfway (the race now known as the Spiral), and loomed as a top threat to give Hollendorfer an elusive win in the Kentucky Derby. Unfortunately, he sustained a knee fracture that ended his Derby dreams, and sidelined him for nine months.
Event of the Year is the most agonizing of all of Hollendorfer's Kentucky Derby heartaches. The 2014 Derby trail has gotten off to a rocky start for the Hall of Famer, with the setback to Shared Belief and the shelving of Exit Stage Left, so it would be ironic if a relative of Event of the Year ends up giving him another shot at Churchill Downs.