At first glance, Saturday’s El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields might not seem like the most important race. It’s not a graded stakes, and the purse is only $100,000.
But there’s a lot more riding on the outcome of the El Camino Real Derby than first meets the eye. The 1 1/8-mile race happens to be a Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve qualifier awarding Kentucky Derby qualification points to the top four finishers on a 10-4-2-1 basis. Furthermore, the winner receives an automatic entry into the Grade 1 Preakness Stakes three months from now.
Speaking of which, last year saw the talented colt Rombauer complete an El Camino Real Derby/Preakness Stakes double, proving that the El Camino Real Derby is a viable path to the Triple Crown. Perhaps as a result, 11 horses have turned out to contest the 2022 edition, including five horses nominated to the Triple Crown.
Leading the charge is #2 Mackinnon, who has already made some noise on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. At Santa Anita Park last month, the chestnut colt ran fourth in a strong edition of the Grade 3 Sham Stakes, beaten only 3 1/2 lengths by the undefeated two-time graded stakes winner Newgrange.
The Sham was contested on dirt, but Mackinnon has also shown strong form on turf. Last season, he rattled off victories in the Del Mar Juvenile Turf Stakes and Zuma Beach Stakes before overcoming a troubled trip to finish third in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. On that occasion, Mackinnon was gobbling up ground late, gaining three lengths through the final eighth of a mile to finish just 1 3/4 lengths away from victory.
The El Camino Real Derby will take place over a synthetic Tapeta track, but turf horses often perform well over such footing, and Mackinnon’s pedigree is geared toward success on synthetic. Throw in the fact trainer Doug O’Neill has been winning with 24% of his starters at Golden Gate Fields, and Mackinnon is clearly the horse to beat in the El Camino Real Derby.
If we key Mackinnon on top of exotic wagers like the exacta and trifecta, that leaves the question of who to use underneath. One appealing option is #6 Boise. Conditioned by hot trainer Jonathan Wong (also a 24% winner at Golden Gate Fields), Boise displayed an affinity for the Golden Gate Tapeta when contesting the one-mile Gold Rush Stakes in December. After settling in midfield for much of the race, Boise unleashed an explosive rally down the homestretch, gaining 4 1/2 lengths to win by half a length.
#4 Blackadder can’t be dismissed from consideration either. Purchased for $620,000 as a yearling, Blackadder lost his first two starts at Santa Anita and Del Mar before returning to Santa Anita for a one-mile maiden race on Dec. 26. Capitalizing on a quick pace over a tiring track, Blackadder gobbled up ground as the tempo decelerated to win by 1 1/4 lengths.
Switching from dirt to Tapeta is a question mark for Blackadder, especially since his sire (Quality Road) and dam sire (Pulpit) were known for their success on dirt. But on the bright side, Quality Road has already sired a pair of El Camino Real Derby winners, so perhaps Blackadder will handle the footing just fine.
Gold Rush third-place finisher #7 Dr Prescado and maiden winners #10 Il Bellator and #11 Del Mo are others worth including on deeper tickets.
Depending on how much budget you’ve allocated for betting the El Camino Real Derby, we’ve outlined a pair of wagering strategies to consider.
Wagering Strategy on a $10 Budget
$5 exacta: 2 with 4,6 ($10)
What to say at the betting window: Golden Gate Fields, 8th race, $5 exacta with 2 with 4,6
Wagering Strategy on a $30 Budget
$8 exacta: 2 with 4,6 ($16)
What to say at the betting window: Golden Gate Fields, 8th race, $8 exacta with 2 with 4,6
$4 trifecta: 2 with 4,6 with 4,6 ($8)
What to say at the betting window: Golden Gate Fields, 8th race, $4 trifecta with 2 with 4,6 with 4,6
$1 trifecta: 2 with 4,6 with 7,10,11 ($6)
What to say at the betting window: Golden Gate Fields, 8th race, $1 trifecta with 2 with 4,6 with 7,10,11
Good luck, and enjoy the race!