2023 El Camino Real Derby Recap

Locally-trained Chase the Chaos gave his visiting Southern Californian rivals a start and a beating when he took out the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields Feb. 11.

Trainer Ed Moger, Jr. brought the Pennsylvania-bred into the race after two wins from five starts – a maiden at Canterbury Park, Minnesota, and an allowance at Golden Gate Dec. 30. It looked like Moger may have been overly ambitious as Chase the Chaos was 10 lengths behind the leaders at the three-quarter mile mark.

But jockey Armando Ayuso saved ground around the far turn, moved three-wide at the top of the stretch, and gathered his rivals in comfortably, scoring by 1 12 lengths.

A $10,000 bargain buy at the Keeneland November sale as a weanling, Chase the Chaos would have earned 10 points on the Road to the 2023 Kentucky Derby with his victory but for the fact he hasn’t been nominated for the Triple Crown. He will receive the points should his connections make a late nomination.

The same applies for third-place finisher Harcyn and fourth Passarando, who would have earned 3 points and 2 points, respectively, if Triple Crown nominated.

Gilmore, who fought strongly against the fence for second, and fifth-place finisher Nullarbor are both Triple Crown nominated. However, neither will earn any points on the Derby Road as their trainer Bob Baffert has been suspended from racing at Churchill Downs Inc. tracks.

By Alastair Bull

El Camino Real Derby History

The history of the El Camino Real Derby can be divided into two distinct periods. The first era—the glory days—saw the race take place over 1 116 miles on dirt at Bay Meadows, which closed its doors in 2008. The second era began in 2009, when the El Camino Real Derby transitioned to the synthetic Tapeta track at Golden Gate Fields and lengthened in distance to 1 18 miles.

The first running of the El Camino Real Derby took place in 1982, and the race began on a bright note when victorious Cassaleria went on to compete in the Kentucky Derby. The race achieved Grade 3 status in 1985, and with a purse as high as $300,000, it produced a steady string of nationally prominent runners. El Camino Real Derby winners Tank’s Prospect (1985) and Snow Chief (1986) nabbed victories in the Preakness (G1), while Casual Lies (1992) and Cavonnier (1996) went on to finish second in the Kentucky Derby.

Even beaten runners from the El Camino Real Derby made headlines on national stages. First and foremost was 1999 runner-up Charismatic, whose subsequent victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness secured Horse of the Year honors.

But the momentum of the El Camino Real Derby slowed sharply when the race transitioned to Golden Gate Fields. One of few Road to the Kentucky Derby prep races held over a synthetic track, the race offers Derby qualification points on a 10-4-3-2-1 basis to the top five finishers, but produced just four Derby starters between 2009 and 2019. None of them hit the board at Churchill Downs, which may have contributed to the race losing its graded status in 2018.

Consider the El Camino Real Derby to be a slumbering giant. With its rich history, you never know when this once-prominent prep might toss up another serious Derby contender.

By J. Keeler Johnson