In spite of his grade I victory in the Hollywood Futurity last month, Brother Derek has been ignored on the national scene, his trainer, Dan Hendricks feels. But after Saturday's impressive win over Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) champ Stevie Wonderboy under steady handling by Alex Solis in the $150,000 San Rafael (gr. II) at Santa Anita, that shouldn't be the case any longer.
"He's a solid, good-minded, talented 3-year-old and we're all just overjoyed to be along for the ride," Hendricks said after the California-bred son of Benchmark turned back Stevie Wonderboy by 1 1/2 lengths while making every post a winning one. The winning time for the mile was 1:36 on a fast main track that took quite a bit of rain earlier in the day. The rain resulted in two scratches, reducing the San Rafael field to four.
Brother Derek, a $275,000 Barretts buy in March 2005, won his third graded stakes race for owner Cecil N. Peacock of Calgary and avenged his fourth-place finish behind Stevie Wonderboy in the BC Juvenile Oct. 29 at Belmont Park. Both colts carried 122 pounds Saturday.
Wonderboy, the likely 2005 Eclipse winner as the nation's top 2-year-old, was making his first appearance since the Juvenile while trying two turns for the first time in the San Rafael. He acquitted himself well for jockey Garrett Gomez, but in spite of urging in the stretch, he was no match on this day for Brother Derek, who had everything going his way.
"My horse was getting a little bit tired," Gomez said. "They quickened at the half-mile pole and it looked like maybe Alex got a little breather around the turn. My horse is so big, I was really asking him going to the quarter pole, but Alex was just cruising and we just couldn't quite make up that much ground."
Stevie Wonderboy trailed the field on the backstretch as Brother Derek set a good pace of :23 2/5 and :46 4/5 with pressure from Wanna Runner and Victor Espinoza. Without coaxing, Brother Derek pulled away from Wanna Runner on the far turn, completing six furlongs in 1:10 2/5, as Stevie Wonderboy wound up for his patented late charge while three wide on the outside. But in the stretch, Stevie Wonderboy could not cut into Brother Derek's lead while finishing willingly under urging from Gomez. Brother Derek won with something left.
"The fractions were a little soft and I thought Stevie was a little closer than I wanted him to be but it worked out," Hendricks said. "Alex had a lot of horse. He knows the horse and he rode him perfect."
"He broke really sharp and as soon as he took the lead he sat, so I was happy with that," Solis said. "He was still going really strong (when Stevie Wonderboy made his challenge in the stretch). He was just waiting for competition."
Hendricks said the Santa Catalina (gr. II) on March 4 would probably be next for Brother Derek, "but we'll keep every option open. He can run from three to six, seven weeks apart and we're not worried."
Since 1992, only one Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner, Favorite Trick in 1997, has won his 3-year-old debut.
"He ran huge," trainer Doug O'Neill said of Stevie Wonderboy. "Anytime you get Brother Derek out there on the front end going 23 and change, you know you've got trouble. One of our concerns was that he'd get an easy lead and when he does he's a tough horse. My horse ran a good race. You don't want to peak too early in the year."
Brother Derek, who also won the Norfolk (gr. II) last year, now sports a record of four wins in six starts with earnings of $592,080.
Mary H. Caldwell bred Brother Derek, who was produced by the Siyah Kalem mare Miss Soft Sell.
The second choice among the four who started, Brother Derek paid $4.60 and $2.10. Stevie Wonderboy, the 3-5 choice, returned $2.10 and the $2 exacta was worth $6.20. It was 3 1/4 lengths back to Wanna Runner, who finished third with Woody Be Quick trailing.
Outsiders M.J. Pkay and Sailors Sunset scratched.