Last seen finishing a distant second to Authentic in the Jan. 4 Sham (G3), Azul Coast shipped to Golden Gate Fields to find a cozier spot away from his Bob Baffert barnmates in Saturday’s $101,800 El Camino Real Derby. But the 6-5 favorite still had to work to win his 10 Kentucky Derby (G1) points and free berth to the Preakness (G1).
Ridden for the first time by Rafael Bejarano, Azul Coast raced just a couple of lengths off the pace set by Czechmight through splits of :24.15, :49.13, and 1:14.14 on the Tapeta. Although the leader was still clinging on grimly in the stretch, a cavalry charge would soon overtake him.
Azul Coast was among those advancing into contention, but the favorite looked vulnerable for a few strides. Indian Peak, the 7-2 second choice, moved most purposefully of the principals strung across the track, until Azul Coast got his sea legs. Lengthening late, Azul Coast surged ahead by 1 1/4 lengths and finished 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.58.
“I figured he would get a good trip,” Bejarano told track publicity. “He was going well the entire time under me and he showed me a real nice kick when (Indian Peak) tried to come get us at the sixteenth pole.”
The son of 2010 Derby hero Super Saver increased his points haul to 14. Just the second Baffert trainee to capture the El Camino Real, Azul Coast emulated Cavonnier (1996).
The 19-1 American Farmer closed with a flourish for 4 Derby points, relegating Indian Peak to 2 points in third. Wine and Whisky picked up 1 point for outperforming his 33-1 odds in fourth. Note that the second through fourth-placers are not currently Triple Crown nominated. The Stiff reported home fifth, followed by early tracker Sacred Rider; Ajourneytofreedom, half-brother to last year’s winner Anothertwistafate; Czechmight; Final Final; Mysterious Stones; and Praise Loudly.
Owned by Karl Watson, Mike Pegram, and Paul Weitman, Azul Coast improved his ledger to 3-2-1-0, $104,000. The SF Bloodstock-bred was sold for $150,000 as a Keeneland November weanling and $320,000 as a September yearling at the same venue.
The bay is the first foal from Grade 2 vixen Sky Treasure, a Sky Mesa half-sister to Grade 3 scorer Surgical Strike. Azul Coast’s pedigree features 3×4 inbreeding to A.P. Indy along with a 4×4 duplication of Mr. Prospector.