By Margaret Ransom
Since first contested in 1982, the El Camino Real Derby has endured its share of challenges, but it has still managed to remain a strong West Coast-based prep for the Kentucky Derby (G1). The race was first contested at Bay Meadows, and was then moved to Golden Gate Fields for the 2009 running after the former racetrack was shuttered in 2008. In the years since then the El Camino Real Derby has undergone surface changes from being contested over a dirt surface to a synthetic one and then a downgrade from graded status, yet it still stands as one of the California races to offer points on the Road to the Derby challenge (10-4-2-1) and also draws top horses whose connections want to wear the blanket of roses in 2 ½ months.
Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally sent out the first El Camino Real Derby winner, Cassaleria, who was 13th in the 1982 Kentucky Derby before winning the Longacres Derby (G3) later that summer. Since then, some of the more notable names to win the nine-furlong event include 1985 Preakness Stakes (GI) winner Tank’s Prospect, 1986 Preakness winner and champion Snow Chief, millionaire Ruhlmann, 1982 Derby runner-up Casual Lies, and 1994 Preakness and Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Tabasco Cat. A year ago Anothertwistafate won this race before picking up a second in the Sunland Park Derby (G3), but he didn’t make the Derby cut despite winning the Lexington Stakes (G2) at Keeneland and hasn’t been seen since his disappointing 10th-place finish in the Preakness Stakes last year.
Now retired Hall of Fame jockey Russell Baze, still North America’s winningest jockey of all time with 12,842 victories, holds the record for riding the most winners of this race with nine and fellow Hall of Fame Jerry Hollendorfer, who remains banned from participating at all Stronach Group properties, has saddled a record six winners throughout his career.
The El Camino Real Derby is also one of just two Kentucky Derby prep races in North America contested over a synthetic surface, the other being the Jack Ruby Steaks (G3) at Turfway Park in mid-March.
This year the El Camino Real Derby has been set as the 7th and will leave the gate at 3:45 p.m. PT. Following is the field of ten, with riders, trainers, morning line and pedigree:
|1||Indian Peak||J. Hernandez||Q. Howey||7-2||Comic Strip–Ms. Booty, by Roar|
|2||Praise Loudly||S. Amador||D. Franko||50-1||Boisterous–Made to Worship, by Ministers Wild Cat|
|3||American Farmer||K. Desormeaux||S. Sherman||15-1||Bluegrass Cat–Farmers Wife, by Quiet American|
|4||Wine and Whisky||C. Herrera||F. Rondan||15-1||Fullbridled–Satin Dolly, by Tabasco Cat|
|5||Mysterious Stones||W. Antongeorgi||S. Sherman||15-1||Gemologist–Mystic Voyage, by Good Journey|
|6||Final Final||K. Krigger||B. McLean||15-1||Daredevil—Career Fair, by Storm Cat|
|7||Sacred Rider||F. Alvarado||S. Specht||9-2||Lucky Pulpit—Lady Railrider, by Ride the Rails|
|8||Ajourneytofreedom||R. Gonzalez||B. Wright||12-1||Hard Spun—Imprecation, by First Defence|
|9||Azul Coast||R. Bejarano||B. Baffert||2-1||Sky Treasure, by Sky Mesa|
|10||Czechmight||J. Valdivia||R. Baltas||6-1||Street Sense—Czechers, by Indian Charlie|
|11||The Stiff||J. Couton||M. McCarthy||8-1||Danza—Betterlethergo, by Hold Me Back|
California native and lifelong horsewoman Margaret Ransom is a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program. She got her start in racing working in the publicity departments at Calder Race Course and Hialeah Park, as well as in the racing office at Gulfstream Park in South Florida. She then spent six years in Lexington, KY, at BRISnet.com, where she helped create and develop the company’s popular newsletters: Handicapper’s Edge and Bloodstock Journal.
After returning to California, she served six years as the Southern California news correspondent for BloodHorse, assisted in the publicity department at Santa Anita Park and was a contributor to many other racing publications, including HorsePlayer Magazine and Trainer Magazine. She then spent seven years at HRTV and HRTV.com in various roles as researcher, programming assistant, producer and social media and marketing manager.
She has also walked hots and groomed runners, worked the elite sales in Kentucky for top-class consignors and volunteers for several racehorse retirement organizations, including CARMA.
In 2016, Margaret was the recipient of the prestigious Stanley Bergstein Writing Award, sponsored by Team Valor, and was an Eclipse Award honorable mention for her story, “The Shocking Untold Story of Maria Borell,” which appeared on USRacing.com. The article and subsequent stories helped save 43 abandoned and neglected Thoroughbreds in Kentucky and also helped create a new animal welfare law known as the “Borell Law.”
Margaret’s very first Breeders’ Cup was at Hollywood Park in 1984 and she has attended more than half of the Breeders’ Cups since. She counts Holy Bull and Arrogate as her favorite horses of all time. She lives in Pasadena with her longtime beau, Tony, two Australian Shepherds and one Golden Retriever.