Kentucky Derby 2022: Race Review of the El Camino Real Derby

Trainer Bob Baffert earned yet another stakes victory ... this one at Golden Gate Fields on Saturday afternoon. Here is the race rundown ... Preakness ticket ... check!
Trainer Bob Baffert earned yet another stakes victory ... this one at Golden Gate Fields on Saturday afternoon. Here is the race rundown ... Preakness ticket ... check!

Out on the West Coast, it was the El Camino Real Derby that took center stage at the Stronach’s 1st Racing site, Golden Gate Fields, just outside of San Francisco. This was the site of last year’s romp by Mike McCarthy’s Rombauer, and all eyes were on the favorite—Doug O’Neill’s Mackinnon #2. This $100k “BT,” offers the 3-yr-old winner an automatic entry into May’s Preakness Stakes (another 1st Racing facility), the 2nd Leg of the Triple Crown (as long as they are nominated). It was Rombauer, that went on to “Old Hilltop,” and bested a well-matched field at double-digit odds (including Medina Spirit), enroute to McCarthy’s 1st Classic score.

This year’s edition of the El Camino brought together a near capacity crowd of 11, going 9F on the black as night Tapeta surface at Golden Gate. Taking a glance at the form and the tote board, as the runners were facing up to the stalls, it was O’Neill’s heavily-favored colt by American Pharoah that served as the even money favorite. A turf horse, the SoCal conditioner clearly believed that this would be an excellent spot for the ERJ Racing and Madaket Stables router to land. Not only was the purse inviting, but the possibility of Kentucky Derby Points, 10 to the winner, was the icing on the cake.

Opposing this talented colt, were a host of local entries, plus a few other shippers. Included in the latter was a Bob Baffert-trainee called Blackadder #4. Partly owned by SF, Starlight, and Madaket, among others, this 3-yr-old broke his maiden in his 3rd career race at Santa Anita on Opening Day in December. Coming to Golden Gate, he ended up being the clear second choice at odds of 4/1. As track announcer Matt Dinerman readied himself for the call, both Abel Cedillo (#2) and Edwin Maldonado (#4), were acutely familiar with one another, having ridden against each other at Santa Anita, Del Mar, and Los Alamitos over the years.

At the bell … it was expected that Cedllio would do everything he could to make the front. That did not pan out too well. Shuffled back after a pinched start, he laid 5th at the ¼ pole, some 2-lengths back of the leader—Nuestro Engreido #5. That Felix Rondan entry was going to set the pace, and by the backstretch, Cedillo was on the move, targeting the leader. While O’Neill’s ace was tracking, it was the veteran rider Maldonado’s plan to sit deep in the pocket, and bide his time. Once the top of the lane arrived, as Cedillo was trying to pass his target, Baffert’s entry was given his cue … it was time to move. With the tired Mackinnon #2 losing steam, Blackadder #4 turned the tables on his rival … winning in fine-style, right at the wire by a neck. What a victory!

The notion in horse racing of going too fast early, or too slow late, seemed to apply deftly to this pair of runners. Baffert had only won this race on 2 occasions in some 20+ years as a conditioner. Interestingly enough, the HOF-er did what O’Neill has done to him in several stakes races … take down a heavy favorite. The win gives Baffert yet another KYD148 race in which he cannot collect “Points.” Thus, it is Mackinnon #2 (with 4), 14/1 shot Del Mo #11 (with 3), and Il Bellator #10 (with 1), that receive their prizes. Baffert can take solace that he does earn a ticket to Pimlico, plus the purse money, which comes to the tune of $60k. As for the bettors … those hard-working individuals … they received for $2.00 wagers, Win-$9.60, Place-$3.80, and Show-$3.00 … for their efforts.

Golden Gate’s signature race is now in the books, and once again, Bob Baffert reigns supreme … Is this colt by Quality Road peaking at the right time? We shall see …

Kentucky Derby 2022