Golden Gate Fields: The Grade III, $200,000 El Camino Real Derby at 1 1/8 miles— by Brian Nadeau, Horseplayer Now
#1 Craftsman (IRE): Very intriguing Irish-bred most definitely needed his US debut in December when he was a flat fifth going a mile in Santa Anita’s grassy Eddie Logan in his first start for Callaghan. Son of Mastercraftsman oozed class in Europe when taking the GIII Killavullan in his juvenile finale when trained by Aidan O’Brien and gets blinkers for his second state-side start, so you have to believe we’ll see a tighter, more focused colt today. The draw is ideal, the price should be right and the competition doesn’t look too overwhelming, so let’s tab him for the upset special; lots to like from the pick.
#2 Puppy Manners: The first of two from Hollendorfer enters off a much improved fourth behind a few of these last month in the local prep, the Cal Derby, and gets a few bonus points for a couple of wins over the track as well. Son of ace turf/synthetic sire Kitten’s Joy enters as the second most experienced member of the field with eight starts and will no doubt save all the ground early with this tidy inside draw. His closing style is a concern, however, as there’s not a ton of speed signed on and he could leave himself with a little too much to do; of course, it’s also rare that you get the King at a price in Northern California; mixed signals.
#3 Infosec: Lightly raced runner was a stalking third in the Cal Derby and has done little wrong in two starts off the Lucarelli claim. Son of Heatseeker is certainly bred to like the added distance, and this draw should allow him to save some ground as well, though he likely needs a move forward to be unsaddled. Still, there are certainly no world beaters in here, so taking a price on a runner who has some upside is never a bad idea; don’t overlook from close range.
#4 Tamarando: GI Del Mar Futurity synthetic sprint winner enters with a gaudy resume that includes GI two-turn placings in the FrontRunner at Santa Anita and CashCall at Hollywood Park, so you know there’s plenty of talent here. Cal-bred son of Bertrando will take a ton of money based on his connections (Hollendorfer and Baze), but disappointed in his 2014 debut when a distant second in the restricted Cal Cup Derby for state-breds at Santa Anita last month. On the face of it he hits hard, but his late-running style is no bargain and the gut has always said he’s not a true two-turn horse, especially not at 9 furlongs; willing to make him prove it.
#5 Enterprising: ML favorite just missed when second, beaten a half-length, in the Cal Derby and will take all the money today with Stevens heading north for the ride. Son of Elusive Quality has done little wrong in three turf/synthetic starts for Proctor since bombing in his dirt debut in October at Santa Anita and is undoubtedly the one to beat. But you might want to remember his dad was a crack miler in his day but not a two-turn specialist, so even though he’s got A.P. Indy on the bottom, there’s no guarantee that he relishes 9 furlongs. So point being, at false odds over a potential sketchy trip, taking a small number doesn’t sound all too, umm, enterprising; thinking the waters get too deep today.
#6 Icy Ride: Baffert invader is bred to love this trip and beyond (Candy Ride out of a Seeking The Gold mare), but up to this point he’s winless in four starts and looking up at these, no matter how suspect you think they might be. Fans of this barn will say this colt has yet to run two turns on a synthetic surface (he was fifth sprinting in his debut over the Cushion at Hollywood in November) while also mentioning that it’s a sign of confidence that he ships to begin with, but that’s about where the positives end for a horse that has no speed and has never gone off at less than 7-1 in his four MSW starts. Respect his pedigree and the Hall of Famer calling the shots, but this looks like a dicey proposition at best; tough to tout.
#7 I’ll Wrap It Up: How they got this colt’s name past the Jockey Club aside, he rates as a leading contender for O’Neill based on his two-turn MSW win over the Cushion at Hollywood in December, where he showed ample tactical speed before powering clear in deep stretch in a definite breakthrough run. Son of Tapit enters off a pair of fourth-place finishes in Santa Anita’s GIII Sham and an optional claimer on the turf there, both in January, so no doubt he gets back to what he wants to do today. The wide draw isn’t ideal, but there’s not a ton of speed entered, so he should be able to secure good position entering the first turn and could even shake loose if no one else wants to go, so either way it all adds up to him being a major player; look out.
#8 Dance With Fate: Logical contender defeated his neighbor next door in that Santa Anita grass race last time but broke his maiden over the Polytrack at Del Mar, so you have to believe he’ll handle the Tapeta here today. Son of Two Step Salsa is another who might not relish the distance today, but he did finish second in the FrontRunner for Eurton, who spots them well, so that’s a feather in his cap. The wide draw is a concern, as he could get floated a bit entering the first turn, but you’ve also got some upside here, as that SA win was his first start since the BC Juvenile in November, so with another move forward he figures in the mix; won’t fault anyone looking his way.
#7 I’ll Wrap It Up