Ministers Wild Cat can validate his status as a Kentucky Derby contender with a victory Saturday in the $200,000 El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) at Golden Gate Fields.Ministers Wild Cat goes against nine rivals in the 1 1/16-mile event for 3-year-olds, the most important race for sophomores in Northern California. Winner of the Golden State Mile on Feb. 9 at Golden Gate, Ministers Wild Cat has two victories and a second in three career races. Ministers Wild Cat is a Kentucky-bred colt by Deputy Minister out of Hollywood Wildcat who races for his breeders, Irving and Marjorie Cowan. Neil Drysdale, who trains Ministers Wild Cat, says the El Camino Real Derby will determine if his horse is a legitimate Kentucky Derby (gr. I) candidate."He'd have to merit it (a trip to Kentucky)," said Drysdale, who won the 2000 Kentucky Derby with Fusaichi Pegasus. "We'll see how he does in the race Saturday and then make a decision on the next stop, whether it's the Santa Anita Derby (on April 5 at Santa Anita) or the Wood Memorial (on April 12 at Aqueduct)."Ministers Wild Cat humbled a maiden allowance field at Santa Anita on Jan. 11 when he won a seven-furlong contest by 7 1/2 lengths. He then made his first try around two turns in the Golden State Mile and scored a 1 1/2-length victory over Winning Stripes despite drifting in during the stretch run.Both jockey Kent Desormeaux and Drysdale believed the Golden State Mile was a good learning experience for Ministers Wild Cat, who pressed the pace three wide while being kept in check by Desormeaux until the stretch. Saturday will present another learning experience for Ministers Wild Cat – overcoming an outside post position. He breaks from post 10.Crackup, who captured the $263,500 Great State Challenge Juvenile at Sam Houston Race Park, will carry 120 pounds. All of the other starters will tote 115 pounds.Ocean Terrace, a $700,000 yearling purchase, is 2-for-2 and comes into the El Camino Real Derby off a one-length victory in a seven-furlong allowance race at Santa Anita in which he earned an impressive Beyer speed figure of 100. Trained by Bob Hess Jr., the chestnut colt by Saint Ballado is owned by Bay Area residents Bill Bianco and David Shimmon (Fog City Stable).Crackup won the Great State Challenge by 1 1/4 lengths over Supah Blitz, who ran second in the Fountain Of Youth Stakes (gr. I) on Feb. 15. Rafael Becerra trains Crackup, a California-bred colt who has won three of his six career starts.Winning Stripes finished second in the Golden State Mile for longtime Bay Area trainer William J. Morey, Jr. The Golden State Mile marked the stakes debut of Winning Stripes, who had won his two previous races – a one-mile $50,000 optional claiming race and a one-mile maiden allowance test on the turf. Ten Most Wanted posted an eight-length victory in a one-mile maiden allowance race at Santa Anita on Jan. 5 and then ran fourth in the nine-furlong Sham Stakes on Feb. 7. Trained by Wally Dollase, Ten Most Wanted gets the services of a Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day.Overbrook Farm's Ozzie Cat hails from the barn of D. Wayne Lukas, a two-time winner of the El Camino Real Derby. Ozzie Cat ran second, beaten a neck, in the Golden Gate Derby (gr. III) on Jan. 11 and then had a disastrous road trip to Florida, where he finished last in the Fountain Of Youth. Lukas is hoping Ozzie Cat, a Kentucky-bred son of Storm Cat, can bounce back with a good effort Saturday.Mr. Technique, who won the Redwood Empire Stakes and San Mateo Stakes last year, is looking to rebound from a last-place finish in the San Vicente Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita on Feb. 1. Jeff Bonde trains Mr. Technique.Northern California's all-time leading trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer, who will be seeking his third El Camino Real Derby win, sends Allwood. Hollendorfer took the feature in 1998 with Event Of The Year and last year with Yougottawanna.Allwood, owned by John Franks, has won three of his eight races, including a mile allowance race on the turf in his most recent outing on Feb. 21. Onebadshark finished second in a $50,000 optional claiming sprint on Jan. 30 for trainer Brian Koriner, who won the 2001 El Camino Real Derby with Hoovergetthekeys.Frisco Johnny has won his last two races – a one-mile $40,000 starter allowance contest and a one-mile maiden allowance event – and will make his stakes debut Saturday. $200,000 El Camino Real Derby (gr. III), 3-year-olds, 1 1/16 mile
PP. Horse, Jockey, ML Odds
1. Onebadshark, Ron Warren, Jr., 30-1
2. Ten Most Wanted, Pat Day, 8-1
3. Ozzie Cat, Jose Valdivia, Jr., 12-1
4. Mr. Technique, Frank Alvarado, 20-1
5. Allwood, Chance Rollins, 30-1
6. Winning Stripes, Russell Baze, 6-1
7. Frisco Johnny, Francisco Duran, 30-1
8. Crackup, Tyler Baze, 4-1
9. Ocean Terrace, Mike Smith, 5-2
10. Ministers Wild Cat, Kent Desormeaux, 9-5.
Crackup carries 120 pounds; all others 115.