Mucciolo’s Sophomore Spotlight: El Camino Real Derby & Southwest Preview
El Camino Real Derby (G3):
Seven sophomores will go to post in this All-Weather event at Golden Gate on Saturday. SHEER FLATTERY, who was third in the Robert B Lewis S. (G3) at Santa Anita in his latest offering, is the top draw but the $100,000 son of Flatter failed to make much of an impact in his stakes debut and is not on my list of Triple Crown Trail runners at this point, though I do think a lot of Lewis winner Royal Mo. Sheer Flattery must still be considered a major player against these rivals in his synthetic debut. Jerry Hollendorfer trainee appears to only have one main foe in which to contend and is eligible to step forward with a big showing under leading local rider Frank Alvarado.
ANN ARBOR EDDIE is a consistently good California-bred who owns a trio of wins from four career races and is coming off a pair of stubborn restricted stakes tallies for conditioner Doug O’Neill. Gelded son of Square Eddie has been game in a pair of two-turn races to this point and while I also don’t expect him to be among the better in his division at this stage, Ann Arbor Eddie can’t be faulted for getting the job done so far and another win in this spot could move him up. Mario Gutierrez coming along to pilot the improving three-year-old is a positive.
Southwest S. (G3):
A baker’s dozen of three-year-old males will vie in the second of four Road to the Kentucky Derby series races at Oaklawn Park Monday. UNCONTESTED won the first leg, the January 16 Smarty Jones for trainer Wayne Catalano, easily leading from start to finish in an impressive score over the slop. The dark bay son of Tiz Wonderful is an obvious talent with a lot of pace and appears to be training with energy leading up to this, and Uncontested is still lightly-raced with potentially a very bright future. The bargain $20,000 purchase was outclassed in lone graded performance to date, finishing fourth in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) the second time out, and he has some distance questions to answer to me this campaign before I jump on board. With that said, the Kentucky-bred has a big chance in this tilt as the favorite with a clean break and even slight improvement second time off the layoff.
LOOKIN AT LEE progressed steadily in a busy two-year-old campaign and the Grade 1-placed stakes winner will be the best late option today for trainer Steve Asmussen. Bay colt was a distant fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) in his last outing and has a fine foundation with six lifetime runs, the latter four against some of the better in his division. Kentucky-bred has to get a lot faster to be thought of as a serious sophomore this spring season, but I don’t discount Lookin at Lee’s chances. The $70,000 purchase has been saddled with tough posts while wide in a pair of Grade 1 contests in his last two showings and will benefit from not having to give up so much ground in his three-year-old bow as a contender in this field. The colt doesn’t have to win today – he has the pedigree to favor longer distances – but fans want to see a good late run.
ONE LINER has done little wrong to this point winning a pair of lifetime starts and gets a class and distance test today. The Todd Pletcher pupil exits allowance win over a nice one at Gulfstream Park and has since fired a bullet workout. $150,000 yearling buy is not bred to go a classic route of ground being out of a Cherokee Run mare, but One Liner only has to handle 1 1/16 miles here. I think he surely will be a major factor in this big field and go-to rider John Velazquez will be in to guide the son of Into Mischief.