Yankee Bravo duplicated his Eddie Logan Stakes performance, unleashing a strong stretch rally to remain undefeated by winning the $150,000 California Derby on a showery day at Golden Gate Fields Jan. 27.
The 3-year-old son of Yankee Gentleman overcame a difficult post assignment after drawing post 11 of 12 in the 1 1/16-race over Tapeta Footings. Guided by jockey Alex Solis, Yankee Bravo, the 8-5 favorite, dropped to the inside on the first turn and swung out in the stretch to prevail by one length over Cafe Tortoni, who edged Victory Pete by a head for second.
The California Derby was the first start over a synthetic surface for Yankee Bravo, who is now 3-3 in his brief career. Prior to winning the Eddie Logan Stakes on turf at Santa Anita, Yankee Bravo broke his maiden by six lengths at Redcar in England.
Yankee Bravo, the lone stakes winner in the field, broke a step slowly and shied away from the kickback entering the first turn. He then settled along the rail, running 12th and last at the first call.
“He was a little agitated the first sixteenth (of a mile) with the stuff flying back at him, but after we went into the turn, he settled down,” said winning jockey Alex Solis, who won the 1993 California Derby with Denmars Dream. “I wanted him to go down to the rail and relax.”
Solis kept Yankee Bravo along the inside up the backstretch in the compact field through a moderate pace of :24.48 and :49.32. By the half-mile pole, Yankee Bravo had advanced to ninth, five lengths off the lead.
“I thought down the backside I should get a little better position because we’d gone pretty slow the opening quarter. I just followed (Cafe Tortoni) because he seemed to be going pretty well.”
Following a three-quarter split of 1:14.07, Yankee Bravo steadied briefly in heavy traffic turning for home. Solis shifted to the outside approaching the final furlong and began to encourage his mount.
Yankee Bravo responded strongly, shooting from fifth at the sixteenth pole to win going away while racing under a hold in the final strides. The final time for the 1 1/16 miles over was 1:44.57, 2.42 seconds slower than Now Victory’s record of 1:42.15.
Yankee Bravo earned $90,000, improving his career earnings to $142,049.
Gallagher, who also trains Robscarvic (fifth) and Spinning Sound (seventh), was pleased with Yankee Bravo’s effort after shipping by van from Hollywood Park to Golden Gate Fields, in the city of Albany, Calif, near Oakland.
“It looks like he ships good,” said Gallagher. “I always wanted to try one of these new (synthetic) tracks, and this track (Tapeta) is advertised as one that grass horses are able to handle.”
Gallagher was also happy with Solis’ ride and how Yankee Bravo rallied despite encountering traffic on the far turn.
“I liked where Alex had him because I thought he could finish well and catch them, even if he had a bit of trouble,” said Gallagher. “I’ll go with what Alex says about his ability. Alex likes him a lot, but afternoons can be different than the mornings.”
Yankee Bravo is owned by Richard Bonnycastle of Harlequin Ranches, David Bienstock, Richard Duggan, and Charles Winner. The group purchased the dark bay or brown colt privately following his debut win at Redcar.
Bienstock and Winner were part of the ownership team that owned the 1994 California Derby winner, Fine ‘N Majestic. Gallagher also a played a role, serving as the assistant to Bill Shoemaker, who trained Fine ‘N Majestic.
“We have a system where we come up every 14 years,” said Bienstock with a laugh.
Gallagher is uncertain where Yankee Bravo will race next but mentioned that the colt is nominated to the Triple Crown and the Santa Anita Derby.
Yankee Bravo, by Yankee Gentleman and out of Vickey Jane by Royal Academy, was bred in Kentucky by Tommy Burberry and Barry Hay.
Jockey Luis Contreras, who rode the runner-up Cafe Tortoni, noted the trouble his mount encountered during the race.
“I got stuck behind horses at the three-eighths pole and didn’t get room until the eighth pole,” said Contreras. “I think it cost me the race.”
Jockey Joe Talamo, who finished third aboard Victory Pete, said he didn’t plan to set the pace.
“I wasn’t expecting to be on the lead, but he relaxed and rated so nicely,” said Talamo. “He had the lead at the top of the stretch and kicked strong.”
Yankee Bravo paid $5.20, $3.40, and $3.00. Runner-up Cafe Tortoni, who finished fourth to eventual San Rafael Stakes (gr. III) winner El Gato Malo in the Gold Rush Stakes in his last start, paid $10.00 and $5.60. Victory Pete, who was making his first start against winners, was $5.40 to show.