Although it doesn’t offer any qualification points for the 2018 Kentucky Derby, the $100,000 California Derby at Golden Gate Fields is still a race worth watching this Saturday.
After all, the 8.5-furlong event is a local prep race for the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields next month—a race that offers a total of 17 Derby qualification points to the top four finishers—so it’s possible that we could see a Kentucky Derby contender emerge from Saturday’s race.
The California Derby has drawn an interesting blend of horses with success on dirt, turf, and the synthetic Tapeta track at Golden Gate Fields, making it tricky to compare each contender. That said, I like the chances of #1 Kylemore, who trains at Santa Anita under the care of Eoin Harty. The son of Tiz Wonderful was competitive in some quality turf races last year, breaking his maiden going a mile at Del Mar and finishing sixth behind My Boy Jack in the Zuma Beach Stakes over the same distance at Santa Anita. Last time out, Kylemore made his Tapeta debut in a one-mile allowance optional claiming race on January 1st at Golden Gate Fields, a race in which he rallied in the homestretch to fall just a nose short of catching the lone front-runner #2 Mugaritz.
It’s not easy to run down a loose leader, and the fact that Kylemore came so close is a mark of talent. He finished well clear of the third-place finisher that day, and while he’ll be facing tougher competition in the California Derby, he could also receive a better pace setup since the front-running #3 Intimidate should ensure that Mugaritz doesn’t get loose on the lead again.
#5 Choo Choo, third in the one-mile Eddie Logan Stakes on turf at Santa Anita last time out, and #7 East Rand, who edged out Choo Choo for the third spot in the Cecil B. DeMille Stakes (gr. III) at Del Mar two starts back, are other well-regarded contenders, though both will be switching to the Tapeta track after spending the majority of their careers thus far on turf.
Constructing a wagering strategy for this race is difficult, especially without being able to see the post-time odds, but I’ll lean against Intimidate (who will be conceding six pounds to each of his rivals) and focus on playing Kylemore in the exacta and trifecta with Choo Choo, East Rand, and Mugaritz.
$6 to win on #1 Kylemore at 7-2 or higher
$3 exacta: 1 with 2,5,7 ($9)
$5 exacta: 2,5,7 with 1 ($15)
Good luck to all!