©2016 Calvin L. Carter. All rights reserved.
A full field of 14 Thoroughbreds has been entered in Saturday’s $200,000 El Camino Real Derby (G3) at Golden Gate Fields with Frank Conversation tabbed as the 2-1 morning line favorite. This will be the first test on the trail for three year olds running nine furlongs in what appears to be a wide-open horse race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
Frank Conversation comes into the Derby with a 2-0-1 record in five starts for trainer Doug O’Neill, including a win in the California Derby here at Golden Gate Fields last month. Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
FRANK CONVERSATION rated in the 'catbird seat' for five furlongs, rallied when asked for speed three wide to the stretch, took over and pushed clear to mid-stretch under urging then was in hand in the final sixteenth.
The early race fractions were slow and Frank Conversation had a nice trip running in third until the three quarter pole. The California Derby was his first stakes win and, with a low Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile®, it remains to be seen if he can step up to earn graded stakes honors. Last year, he finished third to Dressed in Hermes in the Cecil B. DeMille Stakes (G3) and he was fifth to Mor Spirit in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1).
Quality Road, the sire of Frank Conversation, easily won his maiden debut, and only race as a two year old, in November of 2008. In his debut as a three year old, he finished second in an allowance race at Gulfstream Park in January. He followed that in February with a 4¼ length win in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) and in March, Quality Road ran to a 1¾ length win over Dunkirk in the Florida Derby (G1).
In late April, Quality Road developed a quarter crack on his right front foot and that prevented him from running in the Kentucky Derby. After a three month break, Quality Road returned to racing to win the Amsterdam Stakes (G2).
Quality Road completed his racing career with wins in the Hal’s Hope Stakes (G3), Donn Handicap (G1), Metropolitan Handicap (G1) and Woodward Stakes (G1). He finished third in the Travers Stakes (G1) and second in both the Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (G1) and Whitney Handiciap (G1).
Jockey Mario Gutierrez returns to the irons and I look for the pair to run a good race.
Tusk (15-1) and Kasseopia (7-2) are two horses I like in this race and they’ll be sent to the starting gate by trainer Graham Motion.
Tusk finished third in his debut as a three year old and he comes into this race with a 1-1-3 record in six starts. Here’s a look at the video and chart call of his last race:
TUSK between horses early, settled a bit off the rail then inside on the backstretch and second turn, came out in upper stretch and picked up the show.
Tusk ran dead last going into the far turn and finished with good energy to get up for third place. The finish time was 1:35.49 and that would put Tusk’s time somewhere in the neighborhood of 1:37. In the California Derby, Frank Conversation ran a mile in 1:36.86, so that would put Tusk in the mix if he runs a similar race Saturday.
And Tusk should run better as the races get longer. He’s a descendant of the Bold Ruler Ancestral Herd and he has an A Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile®.
Tapit, the sire of Tusk, was undefeated in two starts as a 2-year-old including a win in the Laurel Futurity (G3). As a 3-year-old, Tapit was troubled by a lung infection for much of the season but did win the nine-furlong Wood Memorial Stakes (G1) in route to a ninth-place finish in the 2004 Kentucky Derby.
Tusk has room to improve in his second start of season and I look for him to run a good race.
Kasseopia comes into this race for the connections of Team Valor International and Gary Barber with a 1-2-0 record in four starts. As a two year old, Kasseopia began his racing career in England and late in the season he was shipped to Canada where he finished second to Riker in the Grey Stakes (G3). Here’s the video and chart call of that race:
KASSEOPIA (GB) broke outward and pulled to contention, chased late turn and finished determinedly.
Kasseopia ran well in his North American debut, finishing 1½ lengths shy of victory to Riker who went on to finish a respectable sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Stakes (G1). The final of 1:44.31 in the Grey Stakes was slower than what I like and Kasseopia will need to improve on that.
Showcasing, the sire of Kasseopia, raced only in sprints in England. However, he’s a sire-line descendant of the Green Desert, Danzing Ancestral Herd which has got the classic champions Golden Horn and Sea the Stars.
Kasseopia has not raced since the Grey Stakes, however, a recent bullet work out could have him ready to run a good race in his debut as a three year old.
A potentially huge long shot I like in this race is Go Long (20-1). With an A+ Classic Champion Thoroughbred Profile®, he has the best breeding of all the horses in this race. But, with a 2-0-0 record in nine starts, Go Long has yet to live up to that breeding.
It’s interesting that trainer Keith Desormeaux brings him into the Derby off of a win in a $50,000 claiming race at Santa Anita Park last month. And, it’s somewhat surprising that most of Go Long’s races have been at a mile or less because, as his name implies, he has the breeding to run his best at nine furlongs or longer.
Congrats, the sire of Go Long and a full brother to Flatter, did his best running at 8½ furlongs and farther. His most notable stakes wins were the 7½ furlong Ack Ack Handicap, the Alysheba Stakes and San Pasqual Handicap (G2), both at the 8½ furlongs, and he won 9 furlong San Antonio Handicap (G2). In addition, Congrats finished second in the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) and third in the Hollywood Gold Cup (G1), both at 10 furlongs.
Desormeaux must have liked what he saw in Go Long’s last race. He’s already had one big spoiler in Ive Struck a Nerve who won the 2013 Risen Star Stakes (G2) at odds of 135.20. His only win in eight starts before the Risen Star is very similar to Go Long’s record of two wins in nine starts.
Time will tell.
Mr. Coker is the mystery horse as he’s stepping up in class and has yet to run in a route race. I think that Mr. Coker will run well, but, I would have liked to seen him run over a shorter route of ground before running at this distance.
Mana Strike has good breeding but he’s yet to show that on the racetrack.
Under the points system implemented by Churchill Downs to determine which horses will qualify to enter the Kentucky Derby starting gate, the winner of the El Camino Real Derby (G3) will receive 10 points, the second-place finisher will receive 4 points, the third-place finisher will receive 2 points and the fourth-place finisher will receive one point. Here’s a look at the current top twenty Derby qualifiers:
2016 KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD
Rank, Horse, Points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1. Nyquist, 30, Doug O’Neill, $1,580,000
2. Mor Spirit, 24, Bob Baffert, $336,800
3. Mohaymen, 20, Kiaran McLaughlin, $514,830
4. Sunny Ridge, 18, Jason Servis, $505,600
5. Exaggerator, 16, Keith Desormeaux, $940,000
6. Flexibility, 15, Chad Brown, $232,500
7. Brody’s Cause, 14, Dale Romans, $500,000
8. Greenpointcrusader, 10, Dominick Schettino, $369,300
9. Swipe, 12, Keith Desormeaux, $597,130
10. Mo Tom, 21, Tom Amoss $188,326
11. Airoforce, 10, Mark Casse, $444,080
12. Cocked and Loaded, 10, Larry Rivelli, $280,840
13. Discreetness, 10, William “Jinks” Fires, $245,042
14. Riker, 10, Nicholas Gonzalez, $182,375
15. Collected, 10, Bob Baffert, $80,000
16. Vorticity, 8, James Lawrence II, $150,000
17. Rated R Superstar, 6, Ken McPeek, $80,200
18. Toews On Ice, 4, Bob Baffert, $228,900
19. Tom’s Ready, 4, Dallas Stewart, $66,670
20. Uncle Lino, 4, Gary Sherlock, $30,000
20. *Gordy Florida, 4, Kenny Smith, $30,000
*Not nominated to the Triple Crown