How to bet the 2018 El Camino Real Derby
by SCOTT SHAPIRO
The Road to the Kentucky Derby not only continues in Louisiana and Arkansas this weekend, but qualifying points will also be on the line in Northern California on Saturday afternoon in one of the most notable events of the year at Golden Gate Fields.
The $100,000 El Camino Real Derby drew a field of nine three-olds led by California Derby winner #4 Choo Choo.
Choo Choo broke his maiden at Del Mar last fall over the lawn and followed that first victory up with solid efforts in two stakes races on the turf. His Hall of Fame conditioner decided to give Golden Gate's synthetic surface a shot last month and he matched his career best 87 BRIS speed rating under jockey Juan Hernandez.
The son of English Channel should find himself in a nice stalking spot early in a race that is somewhat light on frontrunners. With a clean trip and a moderate early tempo it is hard to envision Choo Choo finishing out of the money. However, at 9-5 on the line it is equally difficult to get excited about wagering on him to win even if he is the likeliest to cross the wire first.
#1 Paved takes on winners for the initial time for trainer Michael McCarthy. The $320,000 OBS March 2017 purchase ran on late for third in each of her first two starts on the turf and then put it altogether on January 6 when she freaked going a mile and an eighth posting a 100 BRIS speed rating in a 5 1/2-length victory.
I can see the allure to using the filly based both on her impressive maiden-breaking score last month, as well as her obvious upside, but there are also reasons to fade her at 2-1 on the line.
Not only does the daughter of Quality Road take on much stiffer competition than what she has finished ahead of thus far, but she has absolutely no early speed in a race that is unlikely to see brisk early fractions. Add in the fact that she is racing over a new surface and you have a horse that I have to let beat me on Saturday.
#10 Mugaritz is the most intriguing of those listed at double digits on the morning line. The son of Dialed In broke his maiden versus low-level claimers and then came back in his initial effort against winners and took an optional claiming group gate-to-wire.
Mugaritz's connections opted to try new tactics last time out in the California Derby and he responded relatively well to being taken off the pace instead of setting it like he had in his previous two wins against lesser.
I was encouraged by what I saw from Mugaritz in the Cal Derby and his trainer, Jonathan Wong, wins at an exceedingly high rate so he should have him ready for a big effort on Saturday. Jockey Mario Gutierrez will have options out of the gate from his outside post, but ideally I prefer to see him stalking just off the early pacesetters. At 10-1 on the line he is certainly worth serious consideration.
#3 Could Be the One and #5 City Plan are probably not fast enough to win the El Camino Real Derby, but they offer solid value underneath in the exotics.
Could Be the One must prove that he can get two turns, but the stretch out to a route of ground should have him in a more prominent spot than he has been in sprinting. This could allow him to grind away a minor share for hot training Jack Steiner.
City Plan lacks early speed, but has a win over the Golden Gate surface and should be able to pass a number of tiring rivals in the lane for Godolphin Stable and trainer Eoin Harty.
Here is how I will wager on the 2018 El Camino Real Derby:
$1 Trifecta Wheel
4+9 with 4+9 with 1+2+3+5+6 = $10
$1 Trifecta Wheel
4+9 with 1+2+3+5+6 with 4+9 = $10
$5 Exacta Box
4+9 = $10
$20 Win 9 (At 10-1 or higher)
Total Budget = $50
Good luck at the windows!