Zeewat, a front-running 3 1/4-length victor in the Gold Rush Stakes for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer one month ago, is the one to beat in the $100,000 California Derby Jan. 12 Golden Gate Fields.
The son of Harlan's Holiday takes on six sophomore opponents in the 1 1/16-mile Cal Derby, the fourth race on Golden Gate's Saturday program with a scheduled post of 2:15 p.m. PST. The race, over the Tapeta main track, is the final major prep for the San Francisco Bay Area track's $200,000 El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) Feb. 16.
Zeewat, to be ridden by Russell Baze, will be be going an extra sixteenth of a mile in the California Derby after his dominant win in the Gold Rush. The Pennsylvania-bred colt, owned by Hollendorfer and longtime partner George Todaro, has won three of five starts to date, including a stakes at Santa Rosa in August. The 122-pound top weight drew post 3.
Shipping from Southern California are Tree of Life and Will True Up.
West Point Thoroughbreds' Tree of Life, based at Betfair Hollywood Park for trainer Craig Dollase, ran fifth in his most recent start, the Generous Stakes (gr. IIIT) on grass. The late-running son of Lion Heart broke his maiden on a synthetic track in his debut at Del Mar Aug. 18.
After winning a stakes on dirt at Fairplex Park in his next start a month later, Tree of Life shipped to Keeneland to run 10th in the Breeders' Futurity (gr. I) prior to the Generous. Dennis Carr, second to Baze in the jockey standings in the early portion of the meet, draws the riding assignment.
Will True Up, trained by Peter Miller, was third in the off-the-turf Eddie Logan Stakes Dec. 29 at Santa Anita Park. His prior three starts were on grass for owners Gary and Cecil Barber and Kevin Tsujihara, including his maiden score Dec. 8 at Hollywood.
The Cal Derby also returns Condiment and My Best Bet, second and third, respectively, in the Gold Rush.
Condiment, a California-bred son of Peppered Cat, has just one win from six starts but has three seconds, including a stakes at Fresno in October in addition to the Gold Rush. His maiden victory came via disqualification following a runner-up finish at Stockton.
Joseph Brook trains and co-owns Condiment along with Evelyn Negri. The gelding broke slowly in the Gold Rush and was along in time to get the runner-up spot while never testing the winner.
TNT Racing's My Best Bet hails from the William Morey barn and comes into the race with three wins and three thirds from six starts. A Florida-bred son of Best of the Rest, he stalked Zeewat into the stretch in the Gold Rush while four wide and flattened out to be beaten by 4 1/4 lengths.
Wildcat Moon steps into stakes company off back-to-back wins over the track for trainer Jeff Bonde. The D'wildcat colt be trying two turns for the first time. the filly Butterfly Soul, who graduated against maiden claimers in her only start over the Tapeta surface last August, tries to rebound from a seventh in the Miesque Stakes (gr. IIIT) on grass at Hollywood Nov. 24.
$100,000 California Derby (Race 4, 2:15 p.m.), 3YOs, 1 1/16 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Will True Up (KY), F Duran, 116, P Miller
2. Condiment (CA), J Couton, 116, J Brook
3. Zeewat (PA), R A Baze, 122, J Hollendorfer
4. Wildcat Moon (FL), K Frey, 116, J Bonde
5. Tree of Life (KY), D Carr, 119, C Dollase
6. Butterfly Soul (NY), A Cedillo, 114, G Vallejo
7. My Best Bet (FL), F T Alvarado, 119, W E Morey