Top three from California Derby return, Mr. Coker to make stakes debut in El Camino Real Derby
Saturday’s $200,000 El Camino Real Derby (G3) at Golden Gate Fields offers points on Tapeta, one of two Road to the Kentucky Derby races to be held over a synthetic track this year along with the April 2 Spiral (G3) at Turfway Park.
The El Camino Real Derby is the next-to-last event in the “Prep Season” portion of the series, awarding points on a 10-4-2-1 scale to the top four finishers, and a full field of 14 has been entered for the 1 1/8-mile test.
Winner of the January 16 California Derby, Frank Conversation will return to the Northern California oval for Doug O’Neill. The Quality Road colt broke his maiden on turf last fall and recorded his first stakes win while trying a synthetic track last time, scoring by a 2 ½-length margin and registering a field-best last-out 96 BRIS Speed rating. Frank Conversation will retain the services of Mario Gutierrez.
Marqula and Algenon, the respective second- and third-place finishers from the California Derby, are also back for the El Camino Real Derby. Kyle Frey has the assignment on the Jeff Bonde-trained Marqula and Catalnio Martinez rides Algenon for Len Kasmerski.
Mr. Coker is a promising recent maiden winner jumping straight to stakes competition for Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer, who has captured the El Camino Real Derby a record six times. By Candy Ride, the $300,000 yearling purchase hails from the Grade 3-winning mare Our Khrysty, a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Bullsbay and two other stakes winners.
The chestnut colt finished a good second to the well-regarded Danzing Candy when making his career debut in a December 26 maiden special weight at Santa Anita and Mr. Coker exits a 1 ½-length tally as the odds-on choice at the same track on January 18. Santiago Gonzalez will be in for the mount.
English maiden winner Kasseopia, unraced since finishing second in the Grey (G3) at Woodbine last October in his first North American appearance, invades for new trainer Graham Motion, who is also responsible for turf maiden victor Tusk.
Other entrants include Gold Rush hero Mana Strike, who will attempt to rebound from a sixth in the California Derby; San Dimas, a last-out maiden scorer for Godolphin/Eoin Harty; and Santa Anita maiden winners Diplodocus and Touched by Autism.
Photo of Frank Conversation courtesy of Shane Micheli/Vassar Photography