December 13, 2018

Paved looks to derail Choo Choo in El Camino Real Derby

Choo Choo triumphs in the California Derby under jockey Juan Hernandez at Golden Gate Fields on Saturday, January 20, 2018 (c) Shane Micheli/Vassar Photography

A field of nine has been entered in the $100,000 El Camino Real Derby over Golden Gate Fields’ Tapeta on Saturday in search of points toward a starting berth in the May 5 Kentucky Derby (G1) at Churchill Downs.

The nine-furlong listed event is part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series of points races, and will award 10-4-2-1 points to the respective top four finishers.

Of the nine runners, only four have prior stakes experience, and of those four only two have actually scored against stakes competition.

Choo Choo is one of that pair, posting a 1 3/4-length victory last out in Golden Gate’s California Derby for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. The English Channel colt made his career debut on the main track at Los Alamitos but switched to the turf for his next four starts, all going a mile.

Choo Choo ran third in a Santa Anita Park grass maiden before capturing a similar contest over Del Mar’s turf on November 1. The chestnut remained on Del Mar’s green for a fourth-placing in the Cecil B. DeMille Stakes (G3), then returned to Santa Anita for a third-place effort in the grassy Eddie Logan Stakes prior to his California Derby score.

The Calumet homebred keeps Juan Hernandez, the rider from his stakes win, aboard on Saturday.

The filly Paved will be making her main track bow in this spot for trainer Mike McCarthy after spending her three career starts thus far on turf. The dark bay daughter of Quality Road ran third in one-mile maidens at Santa Anita and Del Mar before stretching out to 1 1/8 miles on January 6 at Santa Anita to romp by 5 1/2 lengths. Paved earned a 100 BRIS Speed rating for the effort, by far and away the highest of any other runner in the El Camino Real Derby. Drayden Van Dyke held the reins for that easy win and retains the mount in this spot.

City Plan is the only other stakes winner in the field on Saturday, posting a 24-1 upset two back in the December 2 Gold Rush Stakes on Golden Gate’s Tapeta for trainer Eoin Harty. That one-mile affair was sandwiched between double-digit length losses in the FrontRunner Stakes (G1) and Sham Stakes (G3) over Santa Anita’s dirt. The Godolphin homebred keeps Tyler Conner in the irons for this return to the Tapeta.

Mugaritz posted a pair of wins on Golden Gate’s Tapeta, wiring a maiden claimer by six lengths and duplicating that effort when a nose winner of an allowance/optional claimer on New Year’s Day. The Jonathan Wong trainee returned 19 days later to be second in the California Derby, and receives the services of Mario Gutierrez for the first time in this second stakes try.

Could Be the One is the most experienced runner in this field with nine starts under his girth already, and boasts an 8-4-3-0 mark on the Tapeta. The Jack Steiner-conditioned gelding is even two-for-two in 2018, scoring close wins in a pair of six-furlong sprints at Golden Gate just 15 days apart. The first of those victories came only 13 days after the Bedford Falls sophomore was fourth in a starter allowance on December 31. Could Be the One will be piloted by William Antongeorgi III in the El Camino Real Derby for the first time.

Blended Citizen finished 1 1/4 lengths behind Choo Choo when fourth in the Eddie Logan Stakes most recently. The Doug O’Neill pupil, who broke his maiden by 1 1/4 lengths on Del Mar’s turf November 24, makes his sophomore bow in this spot under new rider Kyle Frey.

Unlawful Act took five tries to break his maiden, getting the job done over Golden Gate’s Tapeta on January 11. The Matthew Troy charge followed that with a one-length victory in a starter allowance at the track three weeks later under Cristobal Herrera, who stays aboard as the Mineshaft gelding tries stakes rivals for the first time.

Completing the El Camino Real Derby field are Calexman and Epical, who are both exiting maiden triumphs. The Vladimir Cerin-trained Calexman wired a maiden over Del Mar’s turf on November 24 and Epical captured his debut for conditioner James Cassidy in a January 28 Santa Anita turf contest. Alonso Quinonez has the call on Calexman and Epical will be ridden by Tiago Pereira.